The biggest festival for the Chinese spread all over the world is with the advent of the Lunar moon, the beginning of the process of bidding adieu to an older year and embarking on the new.
Chinese New Year is an occasion steeped in a cultural heritage and traditional value, myth and folk lore; and goes back to more than five thousand years.
In the fifteen day long festival, the Chinese people clean their houses, cook up a huge Reunion dinner for the New Year pray at the altar of the Gods, adhere to numerous traditions and superstitions and spend a quality time bonding with their family and making preparations for the upcoming year. The age-old and traditional celebrations for the Chinese New Year reaches its fitting end with the beautiful lantern festival or what is called the Yuanxiao festival.
There are numerous traditional things which are inherently connected with New Year celebrations. Amongst many such one is the Chinese New Year masks. Chinese masks first made a presence in China during the Shang and Zhou dynasty around 3,500 years ago and since then have been appreciated for their intricacy and splendor, but when it comes to making segregation it is generally segregated into two main categories- the Chinese New Year celebrations masks and the Chinese opera performance masks.
New Year masks that are seen during the New Year season is exclusively meant and used in that particular time only. Unlike the Chinese Opera masks, the Masks that are used during the New year portray the feelings and emotions of sheer joy and happiness of welcoming the new year and bidding fare well to the old year.
All over the world, in whichever parts, the Chinese people welcome the New Year by preparing delicacies and special annual dinners, by baking cookies, by cleaning their homes, by buying gifts for families and friends. The beautiful and intricate artworks like the Chinese New Year Masks in rich colors enhance the seasonal joy and bring out the traditionalism and cultural heritage of the Chinese people.
Materials used in the masks
The materials used for the masks are varied. A variety of materials, like paper, leather, grass, and different types of metal or clothes are used. There are instances of masks, which have been carved out of stone or wood too. These masks are painted in jewel colors like red, blue or golden and have the Chinese symbolic writings.
Features of the Masks
The masks as mentioned are deeply connected to Chinese traditional symbolism and cultural heritage. The New Year masks display in many instances animal or human features. Lion and Dragon are quite recurrent theme in terms of subject matter for masks. As red is considered to be an auspicious color, there are plenty of red masks visible during the Chinese New Year celebrations and during this period. The Chinese New Year Masks being extremely exquisite are much sought after by art curators and aficionados all over the world.
Chinese New Year is the outcome of a lot of folklores, superstitions and traditional beliefs, thus spirits, evil and good beings and ancestors are recurrent motifs. The Chinese New Year masks generally portrays these characteristics and the powers, and are used and are given extreme importance during ceremonial dances which are involved in the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The Dragon is held in extreme high regard in the Chinese psyche. It has special significance during the New Years, and is believed to bring fortune and good luck and also brings rain to the farmers. As the New Year is also known as the Spring festival, thus the two are co related. The Dragon mask is therefore an important aspect of the Chinese New Year celebrations and parades. While it may not be as important as it was in the ancient times, nevertheless it still has an important part during the New Year. The Dragon mask which are used for the New Years are fairly complicated and are extensive with amazing color combinations. Colors which are mostly used are red, gold and bright blue. The Dragon mask generally has a yawning jaw protruding out. During the Dragon dance ceremony, the person heading the procession, wears the mask or holds it above his head, while the dragon dance meanders by the streets.
As the Lion dance is also integral to the Chinese New Year, and is held in high regards, another mask that is seen during this time is the Lion mask. The Lion dance requires extreme precision and Kung Fu moves. There are Different colors which are used to indicate age and characters of the lion. For example lion with white fur is the oldest, one with golden yellow fur is the middle, and the one with the black is the youngest; whose movements must also coordinate with the color theme and age group. The specific colors used may also signify the characteristics of the lions. For example the golden lion represents liveliness, the green lion friendship and the red lion courage. The dance is headed by a dancer in Lion masks or as in with a Dragon dance, holding a lion mask in a above his head, while the lion dancers go through the streets dancing, regaling the viewers.
Many of these masks that is seen during the Chinese New Year or their copies can be seen in various museums and are kept in art galleries globally. Chinese New Year is all about faith in God, traditionalism, respect to ancestors; it is about legendary beings. It is having faith in humanity, a higher power having supreme control, superstitions etc. The Chinese New Year masks, Masks honor the supreme power, and are worn during the traditional lion dance or the dragon dance. Apart from these, the Chinese New Year masks are also used as decorative artifacts.
|More on Chinese New Year|