Chinese Theatrical Judicial Staff
In Chinese theater and opera performances, the stage was often bare with no set pieces. The focus was always on the performers and they wore extravagant costumes and makeup with some props. These technical elements would let the audience know their character’s traits. The male roles were divided into four groups: laosheng (older men with beards), xiaosheng (younger men), wensheng (scholars and officials), and wusheng (fighters). The groups of female roles were: laodan (older women), qinyi (aristocratic women), huadan (servants), daomdan (warriors), caidan (comedians). Every group would have a distinct look and action that would distinguish them from the rest of the performers. Props such as these judicial staffs would likely be used by the laosheng or wensheng, to display their power and status.
These staffs are made of carved wood. Each one has a dragon’s mouth opening where the staff meets the symbol on the top. The two smaller staffs have dragons on them, and the larger one is an unknown blimp-like symbol.
Circa: 19th Century
Dimensions: From left to right- 84" long, 80" long, 88" long
Inventory number: FR813