Chinese lion masks are worn during traditional lion dances performed at Chinese New Year celebrations and festivals. One man wears the lion head and a second man wears the lion body during the Chinese lion dance. A third man leads the lion with a coloured ball, which is embroidered or covered in silk flowers. Chinese lion masks can be made at home with paper mache and decorated with paint, fabric, buttons and other craft materials.
Mix 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt in a plastic bucket or bowl to make a paste. Add up to ½ cup of white glue to thicken, until the consistency is like thick soup.
Blow up the balloon, which will serve as the mould for your mask. Chinese lion masks are typically large, so choose a balloon in the size you want your mask to be. Smear dishwashing soap over the front half of the balloon to help remove the balloon when the mask dries.
Tear the newspaper into one-inch strips. Saturate the strips in the paste and spread them over the front half of the balloon. Smooth any air bubbles or wrinkles in the strips. Add six layers of newspaper strips over the front half of the mask and put it in the sun to dry for one to two days. Separate the mask from the balloon when the mask is completely dry and hard.
Use heavy-duty scissors to trim the mask into a lion shape. The lion's head is the shape of an upside down triangle, with rounded edges. The head should be the widest at the top and become thinner towards the chin. Trim the bottom of the mask to define the lion's chin. Next, trim the edges of the mask to create the upside down triangle. After cutting the mask, put the mask up to your face and make a small mark on the edge of each side of the mask above your ears and marks for both of your eyes. Punch a hole over each ear mark with a hole punch or metal punch tool and attach an elastic strap to each hole. The elastic should be snug enough to keep the mask on your head. Punch tiny eye holes.
Paint the entire mask the base colour for the lion's face. Allow the paint to dry completely. In the upper third of the mask, draw two large circles (about 2 inches) around the eye holes for the eyes and two smaller circles within the large circles for pupils. Use buttons or dark glitter to highlight the lion's pupils. Attach fringe with white glue or hot glue to create eyelashes and eyebrows.
In the centre of the mask, draw an upside down triangle with rounded edges to create a nose. You may paint the nose black, glue dark glitter on the nose or even use dark felt for the nose. Glue 3- to 5-inch pieces of thin wire or fishing line on the sides of the lion's nose to create whiskers. Paint the whiskers a dark colour.
Paint a dark line from the bottom centre of the nose, extend the line 1 inch below the nose and curve the line up and half way around the whiskers on each side of the nose. Next, draw a semicircle underneath the nose, with each end of the semicircle touching the curved line around the whiskers. This semicircle creates the lion's mouth. Paint the mouth black and glue a brightly-coloured tongue cut from felt or fabric. You may also draw pointy teeth inside of the mouth.
Cut pointy lion ears (at least 3 inches tall) from cardboard or create rounded lion ears with large pom-poms. Attach the ears to the top of the mask with hot glue. If you use cardboard, paint the ears after you glue them to the mask.
Create the lion's mane by gluing fabrics and fake furs of varying lengths, textures and colours all around the front edge of the mask, including behind the ears. If you want a thicker and fuller lion's mane, glue more layers.
Rinse your plastic bowl or bucket as soon as you are done using the paste. Do not let the paste dry and harden.
Tips and warnings
- Rinse your plastic bowl or bucket as soon as you are done using the paste. Do not let the paste dry and harden.