Shehuo ladle mask is mainly painted on the wooden ladle – a utensil used to scoop water or grain in ancient China, so it is called ladle mask.
The ladle was a daily utensil used by ancient Chinese to feed the horses; usually the round shaped was for scooping water, while the rectangular shaped for getting feedstuff. To prevent their livestock from the injury of natural pest/disease and ensure their safe and peaceful life, the forefathers painted gods or amulets on the ladles, so the masks were the beautiful wishes for peaceful and happy life of ancient Chinese.
The ladle, with wood as the raw material, is easy to make, and the mask can be painted either in a simple or sophisticated way. The ladle masks primarily use colors to embody the characteristics of the figures, usually black standing for strong, red loyal, white treacherous, yellow violent, blue imprudent, and green righteous. As an object used to ward off evil spirit and expel desolation for the residential buildings, the ladle masks were usually hanged in the hall or bedroom to express the house owner’s wishes for good luck and plenty of wealth; and still some just used the masks as decorations. Special attention is paid on the eyebrows, eyes, and mouth when a mask is being painted and colored. Based on the temperament and facial features of the painted figure, the craftsman would paint the five organs and skin color in an exaggerated way, so as to highlight the innate character of various figures. Usually strong contrast of color is stressed, which is bold and unconstrained, and has strong symbolic meanings, for instance, red symbolizes loyal, white treacherous, black upright, grey brave, yellow vigorous, blue reckless, and so on. Thus the ladle mask is quite popular with the folks. Thanks to the inheritance and development of modern folk artists, the ladle mask has become the treasure of Chinese folk art.