Authentic Japanese papier-mache Tengu mask (please read below to learn about the different types of Tengu). In the Japanese language Tengu literally translates as “heaven dog.” It is thought that these mythical creatures may have initially received their name in association with a large meteor which struck China sometime during the 6th century BC. The Chinese attributed this destructive event to creatures they called Tien Kou or celestial hounds, as the fiery trail the meteor traced across the sky was said to resemble the tail of a dog. The heaven dog legend appears to have arrived in Japan along with Buddhism sometime during the 6th or 7th century AD. Japanese mythology holds that Tengu, which are more mischievous than evil (and don’t really look much like a dog), reside in clans within the country’s mountainous interior. Tengu are said to possess supernatural powers which they may use to harass and torment any humans who they perceive as vain, boisterous or who appear to corrupt the Dharma (Buddhist law). Please read below to learn about the legend and myth of Tengu in Japan.
About the Listed Item
Japanese papier-mache Yamabushi Tengu mask (kamen). The mask offered here is new and designed to be worn and features a hand-formed body and expressive features painted in black and gold on a bold red surface. An elastic band is used to secure the mask to the face. This particular Tengu mask comes from the town of Fujinomiya which is located on the southern flank of Mt. Fuji.
Height: 7.8 inches (20.0 centimeters)
Width (across widest area): 6.2 inches (16.0 centimeters)
Weight: 1.5 ounces (42 grams)
More about Japanese Tengu
There are basically two types of Japanese Tengu: The earlier is the evil, crow-like Karasu Tengu with it’s bird face and man’s body. The Tengu later evolved into the protective Yamabushi Tengu which are great warriors and are believed to sometimes mentor worthy humans on the arts of warfare and weapons smithing. The word ‘Yamabushi’ is also used to describe a group of ascetic mountain hermits who once lived like Zen Buddhist priests in Japan’s mountainous interior and who spent much time training and refining their mastery of the arts of warfare. Yamabushi Tengu are readily identified by their extraordinary noses which are associated with their hatred of arrogance and prejudice. Japanese of high and low station have for centuries regarded the Tengu with respect and fear. Farmers in mountain communities did in the past commonly place offerings of rice and sweet bean paste near their back doors in an effort to appease neighboring Tengu. And as late as 1860 the feudal Edo government placed signs in a wooded mountain region requesting resident Tengu to leave for a few days during a planned visit from the reigning Shogun. The Tengu has long been an important part of Japanese mythology and, not surprisingly, its image has frequently appeared in Japanese art and theatre. Tengu masks such as those used in Noh and Kyogen performances (read below to learn more) are particularly exceptional as their crimson faces, long noses and piercing gaze help the actor to create a formidable and unforgettable stage presence. Tengu masks are very popular with collectors who prize their fiery countenance and appreciate the long and interesting history of these unique creatures of mythology who first rode to earth on a fiery meteor so many centuries ago.
More about Japanese Noh and Kyogen theatre
Noh (pronounced “no”) theatre is one of the classical Japanese forms of stage performance. Noh and its more light hearted and humorous sister art Kyogen are often performed together in traditional theater houses within large Japanese cities. In the past, formal Noh/Kyogen performances would last all day with several heavy and serious Noh dramas of different genres being performed with periodic Kyogen performances between these to give the audience a break and a chance to laugh. Noh actors are always male (even the ones dressed as women), and normally share the stage with an orchestra of traditional Japanese musicians as well as a choir. The actors recite their lines in old Japanese style (most Japanese can’t understand them and must follow the story with a written script) sung with trailing syllables oscillating with flowing emphasis. Noh and Kyogen actors often wear masks to help them better portray the character they are playing or to lend emphasis to key points of their performance. With the exception of demon masks (which are very expressive) most Noh/Kyogen masks are neutral in expression, requiring the actor to indicate emotion exclusively through subtle body movements. The craft of making Noh and Kyogen masks is an important Japanese art form in itself and many masks (particularly the dramatic demon and god masks) are collected by Japanese and foreign enthusiasts of Japanese culture.
item code: R2S2-0003351
ship code: G6