Mashao Mask, Talismans with Blessings

Shehuo Mashao facial makeup has a history about 1500 years. It has got the great favor of people, and is really a great treat to the eye. It is actually a painted wooden ladle (mashao) mask used on Shehuo, an archaic festive occasion for songs and dances prevailing mainly in the countryside of North China. 

With a long history, Shehuo are rooted from the primitive sacrificial activities in which ancient people prayed for harvest and affluence with their songs and dances from "She", originally meaning the God of Earth, and "Huo", literally meaning fire which ancient people believed to have the magic power of driving away the evil spirit. On the festival, people in areas like Guanzhong and Northwestern Shaanxi Province hang wooden ladles on which colored face pictures to protect the house and ward off the evil.

Besides on the festivals, whenever people run into something unfavorable, for instance, having few offspring and unexpected disaster, they would ask the Shehuo artist to paint one facial picture on a ladle, and then hanged in on the door frame or below the eaves. This is just the same as people paste Spring Festival scrolls and hang the peach wood with incarnations on it on the Spring Festival, put on calamus Swords and hang the picture of Zhong Kui (one figure in Chinese legendary who could punish the evil spirits) on the Dragon Boat Festival. 
 
Artists today no longer make mashao masks with used ladle; instead, they select high-quality wood of paulownia, phoenix and mahogany tree as material, carve out a shape of ladle or other living utensils manually by knife. Most of the patterns of facial makeup came from the Chinese folk stories or dramatis personae. 


 
 Source: http://www.chinaculture.org/
         http://www.chinesefolkculture.com/
         http://www.gov.cn/