Shandong intangible cultural heritage classroom: paint your own shehuo mask
The fourteenth class of the Shandong intangible cultural heritage classroom, led by Hou Zhixin, sixth-generation inheritor of Jinan Hou's shehuo masks, was held on June 10 at the Shandong Provincial Cultural Center in Jinan, the provincial capital.
Jinan Hou's shehuo masks created by Hou Zhixin, the sixth-generation inheritor of the ancient art. [Photo/ iqilu.com]
The performance of shehuo can be traced back to ancient rituals held by ancestors of the Chinese people to honor gods and spirits from heaven and earth, which they believed would bring good harvests and affluence. "She", originally means the God of Earth, and "Huo", literally means fire which ancient people believed to have the magic power of driving away evil spirits.
With time, the primitive rituals evolved into the shehuo festivity, a sort of folk art performance involving songs and dances given on Chinese traditional festivals as a tribute to the Earth God, a deity who holds sway over fortune and wealth.
It later becomes a mass entertainment involving a great number of performers and virtually enabling almost all the villagers to participate either in the performance or the preparation work. It is a natural outpouring of enthusiasm and love for life as well as a demonstration of talent and vitality.
Most shehuo performances take place around traditional Chinese festivals, especially at temple fairs during Spring Festival and Lantern Festival.
Shehuo masks are props worn by performers during shehuo practice to disguise themselves as gods or righteous figures that are said to have magic powers in folktales or legends.
Hou Zhixin, master craftsman of Jinan Hou's shehuo masks, colors a mask at his studio. [Photo/ iqilu.com]
The unique Jinan Hou's shehuo masks originated in 1820 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and mainly portray legendary characters and immortals popular among local residents, such as Guang Yu, a famous general from the Three Kingdoms, a hero with invincible and unparalleled braveness and a symbol of loyalty, benevolence and bravery, the Goddess Bixia (the Goddess of Mount Tai), and Shi Gandang, a legendary young man in ancient times who performed exorcisms mainly in mountainous areas.
The color scheme for Jinan Hou's shehuo masks is generally red and black to project gravity and dignity.