Korean masks have a long tradition with the use in a variety of contexts. They were used in war, on both soldiers and their horses; ceremonially, for burial rites in jade and bronze and for shamanistic ceremonies to drive away evil spirits; to remember the faces of great historical figures in death masks; and in the arts, particularly in ritual dances, courtly, and theatrical plays. The present uses are as miniature masks for tourist souvenirs, or on cell-phones where they hang as good-luck talismans.
The often horrifying or grotesque masks were used in shamanistic practices for their ability to evoke fear, and humour, in ceremonial rites. The masks were often made of alder wood, with several coats of lacquer to give the masks gloss, and waterproof them for wearing. They were usually also painted, and often had hinges for mouth movement.
Typically one sees the following some of which are designated as national cultural properties.The Hahoe, Sandae and Talchum are all traditional Korean mask dramas of ritual and religious significance.
Hahoe Byeolsin gut is a kind of exorcist play while performers wear mask such as yangbantal (nobleman), bunetal, seonbital (scholar), gaksital (bride), chorangital, halmital, jujital (head monk), jungital (monk), baekjeongtal (butcher), and imaetal.
Cultural assets and national treasures
The mask play of Hahoe Byeolsin Exorcism itself was classified as important intangible cultural asset #69 by the South Korean government on November 17, 1980. Hahoe and Byeolsin masks themselves were also labelled South Korean national treasure #121 at the same time. The Hahoe mask dance is one of the folk dramas of Pungcheon Hahoe village in Andong city, and dates from the Goryeo Dynasty. 11
- Eckersley, M. ed. 2009. Drama from the Rim: Asian Pacific Drama Book (2nd ed.). Drama Victoria. Melbourne. p48.
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