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W210xD85xH300mm, China

Ground Opera is performed in at the end of the Chinese New Year, on the day of Yuan Xiao.  The story performed in the Ground Opera are solely about warfare and battles, romance and other dramas script are nonexistent.  This is due to the fact that the origin of the performance is basing on the welfare, though the performers are ordinary farmers, their ancestors were military settlement dated back to the Ming dynasty.  They still have the warrior’s spirit running in them.  It is believed that the spirits of these fighters will returned during the performance, helping to cast away any evils and to bless the village for the coming year.  Rituals are performed before and after the shows.

Also unlike other Chinese operas, the character of the Ground Theatre is not defined by the category of Sheng, Dan, Jing, Chou.  The main characters in the show are all warriors, broadly divided into male and female (by the eyebrow), old and young (by the beard), temperament (by facial colour), hero and villain (by the facial marking).  From this we can determined that this mask would belong to the role of a loyal villian warrior fighter.

 

W200xH300m, China

This is a mask of the Di Xi (Ground Opera); this form of opera is practice by the farmer villages in Gui Zhou area.  The folks will perform the opera passed on by the previous generation on Chinese New Year for around 20 days.  Unlike the other mask dances in China, apart from deterring away the evil spirit, the Di Xi only consist of fighting or war themes.  This specific themes can be explained by the its history; in early Ming dynasty,  tribal attacks along the border and by Mongols from the previous dynasty  has not be settled.  Military base were formed in the Gui Zhou area, these soldiers were known as the fort men (Tunpu), Di Xi was their opera, a way of introducing military and culture into the rural area.  Ceremony will be performed for the blessing of the mask, before the masks are blessed they are appreciated merely as wood carving objects, however once the blessed with prayers and scattered with the blood of a rooster they became sacred. The Di Xi masks are also worn differently from other Nuo masks; performers would covered their head with black muslin and wear the masks on their forehead.  The mask in the photo is General character, the colourful ornament on his head is in fact a helmet.

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