Wooden Gigaku mask

From Japan
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.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Height: 28.500 cm

Museum number

Asia JA 1954.10-21.1


Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund and Sir Chester Beatty


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