The Hannya (般若) mask is a mask used in Noh theater, representing a jealous female demon. It possesses two sharp bull-like horns, metallic eyes, and a leering mouth.
The name hannya is a Sino-Japanese word for prajna, a Buddhist term often translated as "wisdom".
The Hannya mask is used in many noh and ky?gen 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 (similar to the Buddhist concept of a Hungry ghost).
Plays in which a person may wear the hannya mask include Aoi no Ue, a Muromachi period Japanese Noh play based on the character Lady Aoi from the Heian period novel The Tale of Genji, and D?j?ji; another famous Noh play of unknown authorship. 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. When the actor looks straight ahead, the mask appears frightening and angry; when tilted slightly down, the face of the demon appears to be sorrowful, as though crying. The oldest hannya mask is dated 1558.