Unknown date, likely 20th century
Materials: Paper Mache and Paint
This mask represents a character named Sun Wukong (孫悟空), or the Monkey King, who appears in Chinese folklore and plays a large role in the 16th century classic Chinese novel Xiyou ji, or Journey to the West. In the mythology of Sun Wukong, he was born from a stone egg on top of the Mountain of Flower and Fruit, when the wind blew on the stone egg it turned into the monkey. The Monkey King gained immortality and supernatural powers but rebelled against heaven when the gods excluded him from a royal banquet. He stole Xi Wangmu’s peaches of immortality and Laozi’s pills of longevity, then destroyed many of heavens palaces. The Buddha captured the Monkey King and imprisoned him in a mountain for five hundred years. The Buddha released him in exchange for his aid protecting the famous monk Xuanzang in his pilgrimage to India to retrieve the Buddhist sutras.
The story of the Monkey king is an important myth in Chinese culture, and it continues to be a popular story in Chinese theater and cinema. Many Chinese operas use face paint rather than masks such as this one. In the Chinese Opera, colors have significant meanings and are used as a visual aid. Red is used to represent a positive character or to show courage, intelligence, or bravery, black is used as a neutral color, blue is used to show stubbornness and white is used as a negative color or to represent a sly or evil character. Gold and silver show characters such as gods, demons and spirits. While red is the predominant color in this specific mask, there are other depictions that have white as the main color, with red framing the eyes nose and mouth. The colors in different masks allow the viewer to better understand the character’s role in the narrative.
Many families enjoy visiting the Chinese Opera during the Chinese Lunar New Year. Each year is represented in the Chinese zodiac by an animal and last year, 2016, was the year of the monkey. To celebrate the year of the monkey many may have used a mask similar to this one in the festivities. The Chinese Lunar New Year celebration is a centuries old tradition that lands on the first new moon of the year, in 2017 that was January 28th. The celebration traditionally honors deities and ancestors and it is also a time to gather with family, cleanse homes to rid ill-will and welcome good fortune and prosperity for the rest of the year.
One of the first Asian groups that immigrated to Texas were the Chinese in 1870 who were employed to work on the Texas railroads. In the following six decades, because of the Chinese exclusion law, the only Chinese that entered Texas were called “Pershing Chinese” because of their aid to John J. Pershing‘s troops against the paramilitary forces of Mexican insurgent Francisco “Pancho” Villa. They were allowed to settle in San Antonio, where even in a hostile environment the culture remained. After the exclusion act was repealed, Chinese immigration resumed and continued through the decades allowing the Chinese population in the United States (and Texas) to grow. Every year San Antonio celebrates our Asian cultures at the annual Asian Festival, held this coming weekend. Get your tickets HERE. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Unknown date, likely 20th Century
Materials: Cloth, hair, Ceramic
This Japanese doll is a depiction of princess Yaegaki-Hime, the heroine of a five-act drama called Honcho Nijushiko or The 24 Models of Filial Piety. This drama was originally preformed in 1766 as a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theater originating in Osaka, and then became a popular drama in the live acting Kabuki theater. The character of the princess Yaegaki-Hime has gained fame through the Bunraku and Kabuki plays. The Yaegaki-Hime doll presented depicts her holding the legendary helmet that had been gifted to a samurai lord named Takeda Shingen by a fox god called Suwa Myojin. The helmet is enchanted to protect the samurai who wears it so that the samurai will always win and, when in need, the helmet would summon 808 foxes to protect the owner. In the famous scene of heroinism, Yaegaki saves her lover, Katsuyori, from the wrath of her father. He had sent two men to kill Katsuyori because of a family feud, Yaegaki prayed there was something she could do and mourned for her lover. She touched the enchanted helmet and became possessed by its power, with the protection of two white foxes she ran across a frozen lake to warn Katsuyori. The climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki plays is Yaegaki’s dance as she becomes possessed by the fox spirit and saves Katsuyori. The story ends as the family feud is resolved, the lovers marry and live happily ever after.
In the Bunraku tradition, scenes are narrated by musical chanting with the accompaniment of a shamisen, which is a stringed instrument of the lute family. The narrator voices the characters using a unique emotional vocal style for each character, sometimes for important scenes there may be multiple narrators chanting together. The puppeteer, or chief handler, also plays a role in narrating the story with his own exaggerated facial expressions, he would operate the head and right hand while 2 assistants, dressed and hooded in black, control the left hand and lower body movement.
The tradition of puppet theater in Japan stems from 11th century traveling story tellers and may have been influenced by Central Asia. The style of puppets has evolved from simplistic, hand-less and leg-less puppets to intricate full bodied puppets with moveable mouths and eyes. Japanese puppet theater was considered a sophisticated, adult pastime and was immensely popular the during the Tokugwa, or Edo, Period (1600-1868). The Japanese puppet theater did not gain the name ‘Bunraku’ until the late 18th century, it derives from the troupe established by Uemura Bunrakuken in Osaka, Japan. The plays for the puppet theater were written playbooks, published in authorized editions and, at the height of the puppeteering tradition over 1,000 plays were written and performed.
A new type of Japanese entertainment emerged in the beginning of the 17th century called Kabuki, where women would play both male and female parts in storytelling with song and dance. Many of the stories in the original Kabuki tradition were those of everyday life however, many of the successful Bunraku plays were adapted for the Kabuki stage. During this period, when women played the roles, Kabuki was not deemed as sophisticated as its puppeteering counterpart. The themes of these stories were often comical, suggestive and the women were usually prostitutes. The Shogunate banned women from acting to discourage prostitution and became a tradition of performance with a completely male cast. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Visit the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 4th to see live performances of Asian music and dance.
Unknown date, likely 20th century
Materials: Paper Mache
This is a Chinese Opera mask depicting Jian Wei, a character who appeared in the The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This traditional Chinese drama combines historic events, and legends, from the third century AD and the civil wars after the fall of the Han Dynasty. The wars between the Shu, Wu, and Wei kingdoms spawned stories of violence, betrayal, heroism, and romance.
Jiang Wei is represented with a red, white and black three tiled face with a taijitu, or yin yang, symbol on his forehead. The colors and symbols on the face of an opera character give the audience insight to the personality of the character. Red represents loyalty and courage in Chinese culture. Because his face is mostly red, it suggests an overall positive character. The taijitu on his head tells the audience that he is a Taoist master and has an immense knowledge of the universe. Jiang Wei was a historical figure who was originally a general for the Wei kingdom but his authority was not respected so he became a general of the opposing kingdom of Shu. He later became the successor to the famed Zhang Liang, however, he betrayed the Shu kingdom by manipulating them, allowing the Wei kingdom to overthrow the Shu.
Masks such as these have several purposes, they can be used for ceremonies, protection, festivals, and theater. In this case, the mask would be worn by an opera performer, today actors typically wear face paint rather than masks. Using paint is more difficult and requires skill, but it allows the actor to better convey emotion.
In the Chinese Opera there are four different types of roles. The first is the female role or dan usually young a maiden, elderly woman, or warrior woman. Second is the male role or , which refers to a young man, elderly man, or sheng combat warrior. Then there’s the clowns or chou which can be either male or female, the clowns are comical characters that can act as the villain or simply provide comic relief. Finally there’s the painted face roles, called jing, which are powerful male roles. The painted face characters usually include generals, villains, gods, supernatural beings, or other powerful characters. The singing style is different for the painted face roles, it requires a deep nasal voice. Their costumes are big and demand attention, with large shoulder pads and heavy fabric these characters take up a lot of space.
Tales like these have been an important part of Chinese literature for centuries with the opera being a form of historical education for many common, or even illiterate, Chinese peoples. However exaggerated and whimsical the operas appear, many of the stories contain historical fact in the events and characters. The legends told in the Chinese Opera have influenced the identity of the Chinese culture and people. During the mid-nineteenth century, China was in increasing contact with Europe though many western explorers. Europeans journeyed to China to learn about and study the Chinese culture, spread religion, or secure trade routes. The Chinese identity was challenged by the sudden and immense exposure to western society. The traditional tales performed in the opera encouraged and reinforced the Chinese identity. On an international level Chinese Americans brought the Peking Opera to America when there was an increase in immigration in due to the 1849 gold rush. The Chinese have used opera to continue and spread their legends and history. Today the Chinese Opera can be found in countries across the world and has influenced modern media. Chinese themes, stories, and characters play parts in video games like Dynasty Warriors, novels like Journey to the West, comic books, and some have been adapted into full-length feature films. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Materials: Wood and paper
The use of tobacco is centuries old, thought to have been discovered by the ancient Maya. There is evidence of smoking on Mayan pottery going back as far as the 10th century. In the 1600s, tobacco smoking became popular in Spain and was a symbol of wealth. Ironically, tobacco use was initially thought to be a cure for many illnesses. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the negative health effects of smoking began to be known, and it was first proven to cause cancer.
In cigars the outer layer, or wrapper, holds the tobacco together into its signature shape. This outer layer also determines much of the character and flavor of the cigar. The exterior leaves were picked while still green and go through a special aging process depending on the color and cigar type desired. Cigars today come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, with tobacco produced in many different countries and regions. The tobacco leaves filling the cigar need to be arranged in a way that forms air passages, the size of which is important to the quality of the cigar. If the airways are too small, the cigar will not burn, and if they are too large the cigar will burn too fast. Prior to the 1950s all cigars were hand folded, and getting the correct arrangement of leaves took a skilled worker. Today machines have taken over that task, by replacing the painstakingly folded inner leaves with smaller pieces of chopped up tobacco.
Henry William Finck was raised in New Orleans where he worked in the cigar making industry and learned the trade. He managed a cigar factory in New Orleans until he came to San Antonio in 1853 and started his own business with $1,000, borrowed from his life insurance.
The Finck Company made special “private label” cigars for the Travis Club, a private men’s club, founded in 1890. In 1906 the private label cigars were made only for the club, but during WWI the club members began inviting young military officers and trainees in San Antonio to join the Travis Club. These military men enjoyed the cigars so much they demanded they be sent to other military related men’s clubs. It became a widely popular brand and is still a top seller today, with an image of the original building printed on the label as a tribute to the history of the brand. Today the Finck Cigar Company is the only automated cigar factory in Texas. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
B. B. Ruth
San Antonio, Texas
Materials: Cloth, , Rhinestones
This object is a lady’s hat sold by Joske’s Department Store in the early to mid-1900s. It was owned by Elise Denison Brown Lane, a long time San Antonio resident. The stamp inside the hat shows that it was made by B.B. Ruth for Joske’s Department Store.
After immigrating to Texas from Prussia in 1867, Julius Joske opened a dry goods store in San Antonio. After returning to Prussia in 1873, Joske returned to San Antonio a year later with his wife and children and reopened the store. When his sons joined the business the store name was changed to J. Joske and Sons. In 1883, after the retirement of Julius Joske, the store became known as Joske Brothers. In 1903, Alexander Joske bought out his brother and father and renamed the store Joske’s.
At the time that this hat was made for Joske’s, the store carried mostly merchandise for men and boys. After an expansion in 1909, fabric and other materials were added to the store’s inventory. This gave women the option to have dresses and other apparel made for them.
Joske’s Department Store was headquartered in San Antonio with its flagship store in what is now Rivercenter Mall. Joske’s ultimately had twenty-six stores in Texas and one in Arizona. In 1939, after an expansion, Joske’s downtown San Antonio store became the first air-conditioned store in Texas. The store was hailed as the largest department store west of the Mississippi River until it was bought by Dillard’s in 1987.
Joske’s introduced the “bargain basement” in 1877 to help those with lower incomes be able to shop at Joske’s. This area of the store featured items at discount prices. Not only did the store sell goods, they also had several eating establishments which included a restaurant called the Camellia Room. In 1960, Joske’s opened a Christmas promotional area on the fourth floor of their downtown San Antonio store called Fantasyland. There was a thirty foot tall, mechanical Santa on the roof of the store that waved his hand. There was also a train ride that took children through the display. If you have ever seen the classic holiday movie “A Christmas Story,” you can get an idea of what Joske’s Fanstasyland was like in the scene where the character Ralphie and his family look at the Christmas display windows and when they visit Santa at the department store in their town.
In 1987, The Dillard Corporation of Arkansas bought Joske’s Department Stores. All the Joske’s stores throughout Texas were renamed as Dillard’s. The building that housed the flagship Joske’s store in downtown San Antonio is still being used today and is now part of the Shops at Rivercenter mall. [Kim Grosset, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]
Limberjack or Jig Doll
This object is a limberjack doll, sometimes called a jig doll because it is designed to “dance a jig.” A limberjack doll is similar to a puppet. It is made of wood and is usually modeled after a human or animal figure. A limberjack doll features sectioned joints at the shoulder and elbows and at the hips and knees allowing the figure to move.
A limberjack doll is operated much like a rhythm instrument. First, you must sit with one end of a thin board under you, with the opposite end out in front or out to one side. While holding on to a wooden stick that is inserted in a small hole in the back of the doll, the doll is held above the board with its feet barely touching the board. Next, you lightly tap the board just behind the doll’s feet. The board will bounce gently causing the Limberjack Doll to move at the joints. These dolls provided hours of entertainment throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The limberjack doll featured here is modeled after a train porter. A porter is a person who assists passengers board trains. A porter is responsible for everything from loading a passenger’s luggage onto the train to making up the beds for passengers in the sleeper cars. In the United States the Pullman Company was responsible for creating the first sleeper cars in the 1860s. As the American Civil War came to an end, the company began hiring former slaves as porters. Since many middle class people had never had any type of assistance, the Pullman Company advertised trips in their sleeper cars as an upper class experience.
The Pullman Company became one of the largest employers of African-Americans. Although having a job as a porter was considered one of the best jobs African Americans could obtain, it was also a job where African Americans had to tolerate being stereotyped and many forms of abuse. The porters were paid incredibly low wages and had to rely on tips. In addition to being paid low wages, porters were required to pay for their own uniforms, the shoe shine they used on their customers shoes, food, overnight stays on the trains, as well as having to pay for items that were stolen by passengers. Often these costs added up to almost half of the Porter’s wages. Porters worked about 400 hours a month and worked shifts were sometimes 20 consecutive hours.
Although the Porters were not involved, there was an employee strike against the Pullman Company in 1894 over reductions in pay. The strike began in Chicago where the factory was located, and affected railroads across the United States when the strike stopped all trains using Pullman cars from moving. The President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, had to step in to end the strike. He ordered the Army to stop the striking employees. The strike left an unfavorable outcome for the employees as well as the Pullman Company. The strike was also a defeat for the American Railway Union that lead to the downfall of industrial unions.
In 1918 the Order of the Sleeping Car Conductors was created however, African Americans were not allowed. As a result Asa Philip Randolph created an organization called the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. In which porters demanded better working conditions and decent wages. It wouldn’t be until 1925 that Pullman porters saw any improvements. Today many credit Pullman porters as a significant contribution to the creation of the African American middle class. In 1995 the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum was founded. One of their projects included forming a registry of African American Railroad Employees. In 2008 Amtrak became aware of this and partnered with museum to locate and honor surviving porters. [Kim Grosset edited by Joscelynn Garcia]
This object is a wooden bowling ball originally used in 1889 by the Bexar Bowlers of the Bexar Bowling Society. Bowling is one of the most popular sports in the world and the history of bowling is believed to go back to 3200 BCE. This early date was based on a find by British anthropologist Sir Flinders Petrie. He found some objects in a child’s grave that looked like they could be used as for bowling. Others, like the German historian William Pehle, believe bowling originated in Germany around 300 AD. Bowling was also popular in England during the reign of King Edward, so popular that it was outlawed because soldiers were neglecting archery practice in order to spend more time bowling. Bowling was brought back by King Henry VII and has remained popular ever since.
At this time there were different variations of games with pins being played. These games were eventually brought to America. Bowling was first mentioned in America in the book Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving. In his book, Rip hears the sound of “crashing ninepins.” The sport of bowling had many ups and downs when it reached America. In 1841 Connecticut law made it illegal to have ninepin lanes. Making bowling illegal was in large part because the game attracted gambling and drinking. Nine pin bowling was the most popular form of bowling in the United States and Texas was no exception.
In Texas, 9 pin bowling was popularized by the turnverein movement. This movement was brought over by the forty-eighters, political refugees from Germany. People associated with the turnverein movements were strong supporters of gymnastics and athletic clubs, but they were also involved with a variety of different causes. Turnvereins didn’t appear in Texas until 1851 and they were located in places like Houston, New Braunfels, Galveston, San Antonio, and Comfort. In Houston “Turners,” as they were called were involved with the needy and sick. The Turners also established schools and entertained the public. Turners in Fredericksburg were responsible for organizing volunteer fire departments. Even though new Turner clubs were established, gymnastics was never that popular in Texas, and as founding Turners grew older the gynastic equipment was typically replaced with bowling lanes. As the Turners began to disband and merge with other clubs, 9 pin bowling gained momentum.
Today 9 pin has all but disappeared, except in some Texas towns where 9 pin bowling is still incredibly popular. Different from the conventional bowling most people are used to, 9 pin bowling involves bowlers rolling a wooden bowling ball at pins that are set up in a diamond formation. In the center of the seven pins is one pin called the number 5 pin or “kingpin.” Bowlers must knock down the 8 pins surrounding the one in the center. As the team knocks down the pins points are accumulated. If you are curious about this game you can visit a 9 pin bowling club in one of the small Texas towns where this game is still popular. [Joscelynn Garcia]
HemisFair ’68 Cup
San Antonio, Texas
This object is a glass souvenir cup with the scene of the Convention Center and Tower of the Americas printed on it to represent HemisFair ’68. HemisFair ’68 was the World’s Fair held in San Antonio, Texas from April 6th to October 6th 1968. The fair’s theme was “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” and celebrated the multiple nationalities settled in Texas. It coincided with the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio which was one of the first major cities established in Texas.
The World’s Fair is an international exhibit that generally lasts three to six months. It includes industrial, scientific, and cultural items as well as entertainment in the form or rides, shows, food, and drinks. Britain and France were the first the hold small scale fairs which culminated into the first World’s Fair in 1851. This first fair was called the Great Exhibition, also known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, and was held in London’s Hyde Park. Since that time there have been over 100 other world’s fairs held in 20 different countries around the world
The 1968 World’s Fair began its planning in 1959 when it originally was meant to be a fair to celebrate the connections San Antonio shared with Latin America. The name HemisFair came from this idea, inspired by merchant Jerome K. Harris. Ewen C. Dingwall was soon brought in as the executive vice president because of his experience with the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris, which regulated the World’s Fairs. By 1965, HemisFair gained its international status and World’s Fair 1968 planning began.
The HemisFair wasn’t as successful as the planners had hoped, with financial troubles costing the city $7.5 million by the end. Still, the exhibit included more than thirty countries throughout North America, Europe, and South America as well as a few from Asia. Entertainment included artworks from the renowned Prado Museum in Madrid, celebrity entertainers, and groups such as the Ballet Folklórico de México and the Bolshoi Ballet from Russia. More than 6.3 million visitors attended and multiple corporate exhibitors.
The 1968 World’s Fair had a lasting impression on the San Antonio landscape. It created the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and the Tower of Americas which is an iconic part of the San Antonio skyline. HemisFair also brought about the Institute of Texan Cultures. The desire to represent the civilizations that contributed to San Antonio, and Texas as a whole, continue to be represented and celebrated in the museum today. [Briana Miano, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]
The 45th annual Texas Folklife Festival is just around the corner, don’t forget to get your tickets! Advance tickets can be purchased HERE. This year the ITC has collaborated with VIA Metropolitan Transit, Lyft, and B-Cycle to help everyone get to the festival with reduced fares and park-and-ride service from Crossroads Mall.
In addition to all the great music, dancing and food you’ve come to expect from Folklife over the years the museum is adding some great new attractions to the event. Be sure to check out the new El Zócalo, a specially curated area by Chef Johnny Hernandez. It will include Mexican artisans, food demonstrations by chefs from Culinary Institute of America and Pharm Table, as well as a a pop-up of El Machito.
Don’t miss out on this great RAIN OR SHINE event, June 10th-12th at the Institute of Texan Cultures.