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Buddhist mask

Buddhist mask

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1400-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, covered with gufun, painted, lacquered and gilded

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery, case 11

This mask was used in Buddhist Gyodo ceremonies such Raigo and Nerikuyo which have their origins in Tang dynasty (AD 618-906) China. It is made of lacquered, painted and gilded wood and shows clear signs of use. Labels inside the mask refer to cyclical dates on which the mask was used for the New Year processions.

During Gyodo ceremonies priests wearing masks enact the part of Amida Buddha (Sanskrit: Amitabha) and his disciples, welcoming the soul of dying believers into Paradise. The priests also carry a statue or Buddhist relics in a carriage or palanquin in a procession. Bodhisattva masks are particularly associated with the Raigo form of the Gyodo ceremony, in which the dead are welcomed into Paradise by the Amida Buddha. Bodhisattva (Japanese: Bosatsu) are Buddhist saints.

A well-known Nerikuyo ceremony is still conducted at Taimadera in Nara on the fourteenth of May each year.

Physical description

Made of four sections of wood (possibly Japanese cypress) which have been covered with gofun (a type of gesso) and then painted, lacquered and gilded.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1400-1500 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wood, covered with gufun, painted, lacquered and gilded

Marks and inscriptions

SHAKA mask of the Buddha, temple plays, (Gakki I.IIIV).
On paper label interior right hand side.

1. Shogatsu ( New Year)
2. Tsuitachi Kinoto (First day, Kinoto Year)
3. Futsuka Hinoe (Second day, Hinoe Year)
4. Mikka Hinoto (Third day, Hinoto Year)
On inside at top of the head: Japanese paper affixed back to front with Japanese black ink (sumi) inscription in four columns.


Height: 29.3 cm, Width: 18.5 cm

Descriptive line

Buddhist mask, wood, Japanese, 15th century

Labels and date

Processional mask of a bodhisattva

In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is an enlightened being who helps others on their path to enlightenment. This mask would have been worn along with sumptuous robes for a religious ceremony in which monks processed around the buildings and grounds of a temple complex. This created the effect of the world to come.

Carved, lacquered and gilded wood, with painted details
Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund
Museum no. A.9-1967




Painting; Lacquering; Gilding


Sculpture; Woodwork; Buddhism


East Asia Collection

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