Hannya Mask

Location: Izumo-shi, Shimane-ken, JAPAN

Khoa had originally posted this picture as Photo #62 of his 365 photos in 365 days challenge, but I thought this 般若(hannya) mask warranted further explanation. 

At first glance, I thought it looked sinister, but after researching about the origin and taking a closer look at the complex facial features, I came to see more than just an evil face.

Traditionally worn by Japanese Noh Theatre actors, the hannya mask represents a woman, so consumed with jealousy and obsession that she has turned into a demon.  The grotesque contortion of the face and menacing grin, coupled with two oversized, sadden eyes creates a very emotional image.  The wisps of disheveled hair and wrinkled face combine to portray a passionate, if not disorderly feel.

Like with many things, the history behind an object reveals a much deeper and thoughtful meaning or purpose.  The hannya mask, used to portray the tormented characters of Noh Theatre, is one of these objects. 

 

Source: http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/h/hannya.htm

http://www.the-noh.com/sub/jp/index.php?mode=db&action=e_view_detail&data_id=11&class_id=1

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One thought on “Hannya Mask

  1. foldedcranes August 4, 2012 / 11:24 pm

    I think the expression on the mask looks desperately sad – but it is beautifully crafted. The most striking thing for me is the enormous cultural difference that produces these masks in Japan, and the masks of the Commedia and carnival in Venice. That being said – now that I think on this again, perhaps the stock characters are not so different, and indeed, the masks themselves share some features!

    Thanks for (re)-sharing – I missed it the first time, so it’s cool to have got a second chance (and some words too!).

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