The origin of Chinese masks is from shamanic rituals of the northern parts of China. They began as a big part of exorcisms during the funeral rituals. Then developed by entering other parts of life and culture and today they have a wide variety of uses from births to funerals. They are used in dance performances, during celebrations, there are even masks for newborns, masks made for protection against evil and theatrical masks. During ceremonies that are held as welcome celebrations of gods and spirits, groups of people wear “Sorcerer’s masks”.
These masks are also used in rituals and prayers for better tomorrow and during funerals to help the soul rest peacefully. These masks originate from totemic worshiping of Yunnan and Guizhou. Another way these masks are used are in theatre. Theatrical masks are worn or even painted on faces in Chinese opera and any other type theatrical presentations. With masks, it helps the audience understand the role of that character because of the colour system they use that symbolises different traits.
Red is symbolic of positive values, for example; loyalty, heroism and courage. Purple is similar to red but can also symbolize sophistication and justice. Black is used for characters that have integrity, are impartial and neutral. Blue shows a neutral character but can also indicate wisdom, stubbornness and fierceness. Green is used for characters that don’t have self-control and are violent and impulsive. Lastly, yellow and white are for cruel characters that are hypocrites and evil.For supernatural beings they wear masks that are gold or silver to show they are gods, demons or spirits because these colours symbolize mystery. “Xiangdong Nuo” mask is very important part of the Nuo culture and is used for religious rituals, dance and theatre.
It is made as a high quality piece of artwork, made up of bright colors that show the characteristics of a god that it represents and can have more or less stylized features. These masks are still used today for its intended purposes, from ritual to celebratory.One of the greatest celebrations in culture of China is a Chinese New Year. During Chinese New Year many masks are worn but the most famous and important of them is mask of the dragon. Dragon mask is a symbol of fortune and prosperity in Chinese culture and it is usually made to be very complex with its colours being; red, gold and blue and decorated with feathers and fur. Some dragon masks are so extravagant it takes several people to carry it.