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Japanese Vintage Konoha Yamabushi Tengu 天狗 Mask of Mountain and Forrest goblins
This Japanese vintage Tengu 天狗 mask dates to the early to mid 20th century, between the 1920s and 1950s of the Showa period which was from 1926 to 1989. It is also known as the Slayer of Vanity, among other interpretations and names. We brought back one home almost exactly like this one in my mother’s mask collection which she later parted with. It is almost the spittin image of our Tengu mask as part of her collection when we came back in the late 1960s. Tengu mythology was introduced to Japan in the 6th or 7th century AD, in conjunction with the arrival of Buddhism from Korea and China. They are now part of religious beliefs in India, China and Japan and while they may represent the dark side of these stories, they are not evil in themselves. They are part of over 1000 years of stories in the very long history of Buddhist and Shinto religions. Tengu are considered to be a heavenly phoenix as a class of supernatural creatures found in Japanese folklore, art, theater, and literature.
The Tengu is a type of Konoha, and this one is called a Yamabushi Tengu or '木の葉天狗.' This name denotes its physical and spiritual characteristics. It was made by the dry lacquer process which is quite rare these days and different than others like the Urushi lacquered masks we are used to seeing. The dry lacquer process is called Kanshitsu. In Kanshitsu, first a sculpture, mask, or other piece of art, are layered and molded into shape with many layers of hemp cloth soaked with lacquer. The surface is then formed further with a mixture of lacquer, sawdust, powdered clay stone, and other materials. It is then painted. This Tengu has a nice red color. This one is showing its age mainly on the back where it has been hanging against a wall in Japan. The last picture we shared is the worst of the peeling of the paint which is more common in dry lacquerware, the other back corners are not so bad but do have wear. The red from surface of the mask and gold paint from its teeth and eyes and worn although we can still see some of the gold. It has no cracks or serious injuries. The paint peeling can be compared to Sumida cold paint peeling. We have more pictures if you are concerned about the unseen condition that we are happy to share. Many people collect and we love, all of our different masks from Japan hanging in one room of our home, with still much to learn about them and many stories to tell. Please see more below and the link we added to our Facebook page tonight from the Buddhist Sanctuary page, with excerpts from the story below.
SIZE: Height 9.53" or 24.2 cm, Width 8.03" or 20.39 cm, Depth 7.44" or 18.89 cm, Weight 824 grams or 1.81 lbs.
Tengu 天狗 are mountain and forest goblins with both Shinto and Buddhist attributes. Their supernatural powers include shape-shifting into human or animal forms, the ability to speak to humans without moving their mouth, the magic of moving instantly from place to place without using their wings, and the sorcery to appear uninvited in the dreams of the living.
The patron of martial arts, the bird-like Tengu is a skilled warrior and mischief maker, especially prone to playing tricks on arrogant and vainglorious This one is known as the Yamabushi Tengu, or the konoha tengu 木の葉天狗 distinguished by a human physique but with wings and a long nose (also called yamabushi tengu). This type of tengu often carries a feather fan in one hand. Because of its long nose, tengu are associated with the Shinto deity Sarudahiko (Sarutahiko) 猿田彦 who takes on the visage of a monkey, and tengu masks play a prominent role in some religious festivals.
F. Hadland Davis said in his 1913 book Myths and Legends of Japan, among other thoughts, that There are other confusing traditions in regard to the word Tengu, for it is said that the Emperor Jomei gave the name to a certain meteor which whirled from east to west with a loud detonation.
Above are Buddhist Sanctuary page excerpts, please see the link to the complete article on our Facebook page.
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