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The Chinese Opera Mask

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The Chinese artwork under evaluation is mostly colored purple with some black and yellow dots spread all over. The mask resembles a man and my thinking is that the creator who created it had a certain person’s face he was reflecting upon while still making it. In my own judgment, the mask possesses a jovial and strong character face that looks focused to perform a given task at hand. The Chinese Opera mask looks like it was meant for certain functions and events.

The colors of the mask are attractive and loud. This feature is probably meant to attract the attention of the audience in the gathering.  According to my own personal interpretation, the color purple has been applied to the mask to trigger an environment that depicts joy and celebration. The few spots of black and yellow would probably mean that although there is joy and celebration their might be a few elements of darkness and sorrow within.

The opera mask looks funny and comical, it will therefore be fair to state that these masks were worn to not only attract the attention of the audience but to also portray a mood for great laughter and humor.

The mask resembling a human face might be taken to mean that it was initially created to be friendly in nature. The creator wanted to come up with a mask that would be easily identified by men and at the same time entertain them. The creator probably had everybody on board while creating the mask. She/he thought of both the young and the old.

According to Oliver Orest Tscirky, an art Historian, the use of opera masks and accompaniments usually represents the rich cultural tradition and history, the directness and active acts of civilization that happened in China during different dynasties, .it also represents conveyance of messages between people, that is, messages of hope, suffering, joy et cetera (Tschirky, 2011).

Opera masks were also formed to represent the different aspects of communal and global understanding, the fast growth and transformation from the past to the future of the people, their respective familiarity and protection of the social and political environment surrounding them. They did create and wear opera masks to showcase the never-ending joy and personal interests that they possessed in their life.

Oliver also states that certain opera maks were created with a clear intention of aiding people to depict the gratitude they possessed for simple happenings as well as the splendor, diversity and prosperity of them being humans.

According to Kate Smith’s article “ CMG’s Color Chips magazine 2008” she writes that the cultural meaning and representativeness of color in China has greatly been shaped by the principles of Feng Shui, which refers to use of color to express a point in the masks of the Chinese opera.

Kate Smith has studied the use of color on the mask and notes that color is used to represent certain persona characteristics as well as general human characteristics. Colors are used to evoke certain feelings and make the audience cognize the story being told. Color is further used to synchronize the audience with the performance thereby creating an intimate connection between the two and creates a more understanding relationship (Smith, 2008, pg, 8-11).

Kate Smith discussed specific colors that are used in the Opera Mask as follows: Red was used to represent acumen, boldness, uprightness and allegiance. Red also represents the customary and well-loved glow. Purple showed deference, classiness, graciousness and a sense of fairness. Black was used as the base of the mask and represented impartiality and self-sacrifice.
When color blue was used it represents persistence. The individual wearing the mask was strong-willed young man who had devoted to follow his love no matter the consequences that could follow.
Then again, when the color yellow was used it meant to showcase some characteristics like sedition, fierceness, and the person wearing the mask aimed at portraying himself as a cunning character. The audience understood that the person wearing this mask was the opponent of the wearer of the red or blue-faced challenger.
Kate Smith further noted that when metallic colors, silver and gold were used they denoted a sense of mysticism .The absence of color was found in the 'petty' mask. This kind of mask had only two types of colors: black and white. The colors covered only one side of the mask with the intension of tricking the audience emotionally (Smith, 2008, pg, 8).

The Chinese Opera Mask had a long history. The masks were used in nuo dances with the intention of exorcism; the act of chasing away ghosts and evil demons and to save people from disasters. Such masks werre used by prince Langlin (550-577 A.D) to hide his handsomeness so that he could tackle enemies with a more ferocious face. The masks were later used in Sui and Tang dynasties (420-907 A.D) as well as in Tang dynasty in (618-907 A.D).The masks were further used by artists in different colors to portray mysterious super-human traits. In the Ming Dynasty (1318-1644A.D) there emerged classification of functions as actors with different make-ups were assigned different roles which became standardized (Smith, 2008, pg, 12-17).

The Chinese Opera Mask distinctly portrayed the appearances of dissimilar roles as well as their dispositions and ethical attributes by use of creative amplification pooled with straight portrayal and representation. Facial makeup was meant to pass across praise or denunciate characters. The Chinese Opera Masks are not only considered as special forms of art but are also an ornamental design that displays the varieties in Chinese paintings.

After reading the original artwork, the similarities that are evident in my interpretation are that I was able to figure out the entertaining aspect of the Chinese opera masks. Since their discoveries, Chinese opera masks were meant to implicate human feelings and characters at different periods and seasons of the year. They were meant to make people joyful at times when things seemed hard.

The only difference that arose out of my interpretation and the artist’s interpretation was that, while I focused my interpretation in entertainment, the artist thought of entertainment and the war-use of the masks.

My feeling: after the whole process, is that I have learned that Chinese Opera masks just like other forms of art are used to pass across different messages. They describe the different feelings that people have and would like to convey, when they are faced with different scenarios of life.

I initially assumed that Chinese opera masks were only used for entertainment but I after reading through their history of origins, I have come to realize that the masks are used to portray deeper meanings which encompasses the diversity of human experiences and characters.

Human beings differ in characters. Some are stubborn, while others are noble. The Chinese people used the Opera masks to disseminate these characters using the different colors. 

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