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See full details Description

Painted plaster and fabric head and face mask representing a cow.

This object was bought from Henry Browinrigg for the Education Centre by Mary Mellors in 1978.

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1 item (description level: whole)
Broad category
Education Handling Collection: Anthropology, Masks
Additional names, titles, or classifications
catalogue name:  mask
object name (Horniman Ethno.):  mask (dance & live theatre)
object name (alternative):  Cham dance mask
object name (alternative):  Yama mask

Tibet; Asia
Additional place information
made or collected:  Tibet 
Additional culture information
maker or user:  Tibetan  (Tibet)

Materials & techniques
plaster, textile, varnish
Additional material & technique information
material: varnish (overall)
technique: textile (overall)
overall: 318 x 320 x 340 mm
Additional measurement information
overall: 318 x 320 x 340 mm

This is a Tibetan Cham Buddhist temple dance mask. Several of the dances performed by the monks included animal masks, like this one, and probably date back to the pre-Buddhist shamanistic religion, Bon. Masks with horns often represent Yama, Lord of the Dead. How is it used? The dancers wear richly coloured costumes of Chinese silk and are accompanied by a monastic orchestra. Often the dances are performed at the end of temple festivals to drive away any remaining bad spirits. Yama or buffalo mask characters appear with a lasso for catching souls in one hand and a skeleton-shaped scepter in the other. His arrival at the head of the dance procession usually signify the end of the ritual. In some peformances he acts as an executioner type character. Who is it used by and why them? This Cham mask is traditionally worn by Tibetan Buddhist monks who perform in the courtyards of the monastery for the spiritual benefit of its lay community. In Cham the monk dancers are considered to temporarily embody (become) the spiritual being or enlightened person the mask represents and gain some of their spiritual power too. Cham dances are thought to originate in the dreams or meditation of famous Tibetan holy men (Lamas). The choreography of new dances is recorded in dance manuals called cham-yig or passed on from monk to monk by oral tradition and through a long line of Lamas who are dance masters. The dances have also been adapted by touring dance companies and are also performed by non monks as a tourist spectacle in Tibet, China and the West.
This mask is made from cloth soaked in plaster and pressed into a mould although Cham masks are also carved from wood. Both types are then laquered or painted. Young monks in Tibetan monastries produce cham masks for the religious ceremonies or repair and re- laquer older ones in readiness for the annual dances. Masks would have originally been make of animal skins and fur. Masks are highly revered and are kept in the monastry’s gonkhang, a special darkened room which only monks can enter.

Related objects
similar:  theatrical clothing
Related subjects
association: Masks
related subject: Yama
maker or user: Tibetan
classified as: Tibetan
object name (Horniman Ethno.): masks (dance & live theatre)
material: masks (dance & live theatre)
technique: mineral plaster
material: textile

Record created 1999-08-27 by IROONEY
Record last updated 2018-01-02 by TWHITBREAD