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The Hannya (般若) mask is a mask used in Noh theater, representing a jealous female serpent. It possesses two sharp bull-like horns, metallic eyes, and a leering mouth.

The name hannya (般若) is a Sino-Japanese word for prajna or wisdom.


The Hannya mask is used in many noh and kyōgen Japanese plays, as well as in Shinto ritual kagura dances. The Hannya mask portrays the souls of women who have become demons due to obsession or jealousy. Plays in which a person may wear the hannya mask include Aoi no Ue and Dōjōji; its use in these two plays, two of the most famous of the Noh repertoire, and its distinctive and frightening appearance make it one of the most recognizable Noh masks.

The Hannya mask is said to be demonic and dangerous but also sorrowful and tormented, displaying the complexity of human emotions.

Hannya masks appear in various skin tones: a white mask indicates a woman of aristocratic status (such as Rokujō in Aoi no Ue), a red mask depicts a low-class woman (seen in Dōjōji), and the darkest red depicts true demons (revealed after appearing as women, as in Momijigari and Kurozuka.)


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Last updated: 12/02/22 3:55 AM by surveyork
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