Height: 28.500 cm
Purchased with the assistance of the
Asia JA 1954.10-21.1
Rooms 92-94: Japan
Wooden Gigaku mask
Nara period, 8th century AD
Gigaku is a form of masked processional drama to musical accompaniment which was introduced into Japan from China, via Korea, in the seventh century. It was performed in the court and in Buddhist temples. The content of the dramas is a mixture of religion, morality and burlesque.
This mask may be that of the youth Taikoji, or it may have been worn by one of the two boys called Shishiko, who led the players carrying the mask and body of the shishi (an imaginary leonine creature) in procession.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)