Masks of the World: Asia

Hi Everyone!

With so many disparate and ancient cultures in Asia it was very difficult to narrow it down, but here is a small selection of masks from Asia, with recipe, craft, and dance tutorial links at the bottom. Please follow the links if you want to to explore further.

Chinese Sorcerer’s Mask

Sorcerer’s masks were used in regions Yunnan and Guizhou. They were worn by groups of people during ceremonies that were held to welcome gods and good spirits. Sorcerer’s masks were said to bring positive energy and that’s why they were also used during organized prayers for better future. They were also present at funerals, and their purpose was to make sure that departing soul will have peace. They are also connected to the totemic worshipping. Today, they can be found in many ethnic groups such as Jinuo, Jingpo, Dai, Wa and others.



Chinese New Year’s Masks

One of the most important celebrations in China is their New Year. The Celebration lasts for several days and these masks are worn during a parade. Made from materials including stones, metal and leather, these colorful masks are designed to display the moods and emotions associated with the festival. The masks represent the deities, spirits and fabled animals that Chinese New Year mythology originated from. Chinese New Year masks are made specifically for that date and they are used only during that time of the year. They are colorful and full of details. The most important is the Dragon mask: Dragon is a symbol of fortune and wealth in Chinese culture. Dragon masks are red and they are more complex than other masks. They have rich decoration and details in gold and blue color. Sometimes, the dragon mask is so big that several people have to carry it.

Image source:

Here is a Chinese dragon mask you can print out and color in:

Japanese Men-yoroi

Men-yoroi were the armored masks worn by warriors and samurai. They were decorative and customizable according to the wearer’s preference and fit. Somen covered the wearer’s entire face and offered the most protection, while menpo were partial coverings. These days, most men-yoroi are on display in museums

To learn more about the history and traditions of the samurai, here is a lesson plan for older kids (grades 6-8) from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco:


Japanese Tengu Masks

Tengu are the fearsome demi-gods who are known to inhabit the mountainous regions of Japan and fly from treetop to treetop carried by expansive feathered wings. Tengu are not necessarily evil creatures, but they probably shouldn’t be crossed. If you show the proper respect, they’ve been known to share their marital knowledge of the sword with us mortals, but beware their wrath at the same time.

 These demon-like creatures are depicted with red faces and angry expressions. But their most obvious feature is a long, red nose. In the past, tengu were more birdlike. As they became human, that beak turned into a nose but kept its long shape. Tengu masks are used for Noh stage plays and certain Shinto festivals. They’re also often used as a decoration since the tengu are thought to frighten bad spirits and bring good luck.

Here is a video of a Tengu dance from the Hanazono Shrine festival:


Japanese Bugaku Mask

Bugaku is an official court dance of Japan, dating back to about 500 C.E. During the Heian period, Bugaku dances were so central to protocol that nearly all ceremonies and festivals included them. The dance was especially important in appeasing angry gods, purifying the village, and petitioning the gods for rain or a good harvest. The dance is performed to the music of drums and flutes. The dancers enter the stage singly in succession, then dance together in pairs, in synchronicity to varying tempos. Each dance has its own mask and is named after the mask.

Bugaku masks were sometimes made of wood, like this one, and sometimes made from kanshitsu, a composite of sawdust and resin shaped over a mold. This mask was danced in the early 20th century. It is similar to a much older one in Nara, used at the Kasuga Taisha for festivals. The chin is attached by silk cords to allow the mouth to swing freely with the dancer’s movements.

The Rangryo mask represents a young Chinese king who was renowned for his beauty, but who could not intimidate his enemies. In battle, he donned a hideous mask surmounted by a dragon to hide his face and frighten his enemies. The dance is a solo dance; it is highly martial and more active than many other Bugaku dances. 



For more info:

For more info on Japanese masks visit:

Hre is a video of the Bugaku dance (a bit slow):

Japanese Noh Masks

These wooden masks, used in an ancient form of Japanese theater called Noh, were made to be expressionless. But performers are charged with using slight and subtle movements to reveal the hidden emotions carved into each one.

Dating back almost 1,000 years, Noh is a style of musical drama with plots ranging from Japanese legends to modern-day events. Its masks, carved from blocks of cypress, are a key part of the tradition, representing figures like demons and monks. Actors are able to portray their characters’ feelings by changing the angle and orientation of their heads.


Khon Masks of Thailand

The Khon is a traditional mask play in Thailand which implies the wearing of masks by performers. The story that has been used for staging of the khon is the Ramakien, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana. Staged in its entirety, the Ramakien is an immensely complex story with 138 episodes involving 311 different characters and taking more that 720 hours of continuous performance.

The process of creating a mask begins with structuring of the model with clay. Then the model is pasted with paper tissue by using rice flour paste as the adhesive. Pasting-up is done until it reaches an appropriate thickness. The the pasted model will be left to dry in the sun. Once it is dry, the pasted paper is removed by cutting the model in half and sewing the two separated portions together. Then the blank paper mask is lacquered and painted. No enamel paints can be used as this would produce a shining surface on the mask which would make it unsuitable for stage plays. The mask maker uses only powder colour pigments. To add some special beauty to the mask its forehead frame is decorated with glass or ruby flakes. The more luxurious masks even use mother-of-pearl as the material for artistic patterns on the mask



Here is a link to a gorgeous HD-video hour and half long Khon masked performance:

Korean Bangsangssi Mask

The Bangsangssi mask is considered the oldest traditional mask in Korea, passed down from the Silla Dynasty, around the 6th century. Bangsangssi is an exorcist who banishes evil spirits during Narye (an exorcism ritual meant to expel evil) and funeral services. He wears a mask of gold with four eyes and a bearskin is draped over his shoulders. His body is clad in a black upper garment and a red lower garment and in his hands he is grasping his lance and brandishing his shield, as he leads the other officials to perform the rite.

The mask was commonly made of paper, rice straw or wood and buried near the grave or burnt after use, out of the belief that masks were prone to attract misfortune, illness or mishap.


The Gods of Five Directions Masks

Obangsinjang refers to the gods of five directions (East, West, South, North and Center). They are used for the Dance of the Gods of Five Directionsin which fiive actors wearing the masks and costumes of the five colors (blue for east, white for west, red for south, black for north and yellow for center) dance to expel evil spirits from the area where the dance takes place.

For more information on Korean masks visit:

Here is a video about Korean masked dances:


Bhutan (Himalayan) Buddhist Dance Mask

Once every year, a dzong or most important village may hold a religious festival, or Tsechu. Villagers from the surrounding district come for several days of religious observances and socializing while contributing auspicious offerings to the lama or monastery of the festival. The central activity is a fixed set of religious mask dances, or cham, held in a large courtyard.

Each individual dance takes up to several hours to complete and the entire set may last two to four days. Observation of the dances directly blesses the audience and also serves to transmit principles of Tantric Buddhism to the villagers. A number of the dances can be traced directly back to Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself, the founder of Bhutan, and have been passed down essentially unchanged since the mid-17th century.


(Source: Wikipedia)

Here you can see a fascinating view of a Bhutan masked dance:

For a detailed description visit:

Naga Raksha Masks of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is renowned for the manufacture of wooden masks and puppets.The traditional masks are carved from light Balsa like Kaduru wood (Nux vomica). Kaduru trees grow in the marshy lands bordering paddy fields. The wood is smoke dried for a week in preparation. The hand carved and hand painted masks in traditional dance dramas are both vibrant and colorful. Masks are created for three different types of dancing rituals: ‘Kolam’, which tell mocking stories of traditional Sri Lankan colonial life; ‘Sanni’, or devil dancing masks, used in a type of exorcism ceremony to heal people of persisting illnesses believed to be inflicted by demons; and ‘Raksha’ masks, which are used in festivals and processions. The Naga Raksha (Cobra demon) mask of the ‘Raksha Kolama’ (demon dance), consists of a ferocious face with bulging, popping & staring eyes, a bloodthirsty carnivorous tongue lolling out of wide mouth armored and armed to the hilt with set of fang-like teeth, all topped by a set of cobra hoods.


Watch a Sri Lankan Devil Dance here:


India Chhau Dance

Chhau dance (Chau or Chhau or ছৌ নাচ) is a semi classical Indian dance with martial, tribal and folk traditions, with origins in eastern India. It is found in three styles named after the location where they are performed, i.e. the Purulia Chau of Bengal, the Seraikella Chau of Jharkhand, and the Mayurbhanj Chau of Odisha. The dance ranges from celebrating martial arts, acrobatics and athletics performed in festive themes of a folk dance, to a structured dance with religious themes found in Shaivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. The costumes vary between the styles, with Purulia and Serakeilla using masks to identify the character. The stories enacted by Chhau dancers include those from the Hindu epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Puranas and other Indian literature.[

The dance is traditionally an all males troupe, regionally celebrated particularly during spring every year, and may be a syncretic dance form that emerged from a fusion of classical Hindu dances and the traditions of ancient regional tribes.[3] The dance is amazing and brings together people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in a festive and religious spirit.

 For a detailed video documenting the Chhau dance visit:

Other Resources:

Indonesian court dance performance:

East Asian Masks:

Indian and Himalayan Masks:


Making an Indian style paper maché mask tutorial:


Make a Thai Kohn inspired paper mask:



My kid loves Dahl lentil soup spooned over rice so here is a recipe from Simply Recipes:



Here is a recipe for Chicken Thupka, a Himalayan noodle soup. “Thuk” means heart so it is a heart warming dish. In Bhutan it would usually be made with buckwheat noodles:


If you are up for a challenge, here is a gyoza (Japanese dumpling) recipe from BBC Good Food:


A fun video made for kids/beginners with some basic Punjabi Bhangra Dance Steps:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s