Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Korean mask dance (탈춤)

IMG_6660 My mom and her friends were taken on a cultural study trip to the National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관) which is located in the premises of the Gyeongbok Palace (경복궁). This is a picture of a part of the Gyeongbok Palace in the background.
IMG_6666This is one of the gates of the palace the KeunJeongMoon (근정문), or the third inner gate. However, it was not the destination for my mom’s class trip for the day.
IMG_6668 This is the National Folk Museum of Korea located in Seoul.  If you take the subway line no.3, you can either take exit no.1 at Angok Station or exit no.5 at Gyeonbokgung Station. If travelling by subway line no.5 then use exit no.2 at Gwanghamun Station.
IMG_6680 My mom and her friends attended the crafts making class located in the children’s museum of the National Folk Museum of Korea. They learnt how to make traditional Korean masks known as ‘Tal’ (탈) and later they also learnt the traditional mask dance ‘Talchum’ (탈춤). This is my mom with her friend Hana from Malaysia getting ready to start painting their paper-mâché masks. Here is the official website of the National Folk Museum of Korea -
IMG_6682 Some of the original masks are supposed to look like this and each mask has a specific symbolic significance attached to it. Most of the masks have religious or cultural functions and some were also used for Shamanistic exorcism rituals. For example, the black mask with the white dots is supposed to represent ‘Nojang’ (노장탈), or the drunk monk, who also had a penchant for women and in many popular dramas is later punished and consequently mends his ways. The white mask at the bottom of the picture represents ‘Pune’ (부네탈)- the flirtatious young woman. For a more detailed description of the history and fascinating myths related to the masks please check this website :
IMG_6716The history and legends attached to each mask are definitely enchanting. However, my mom and her friends were given artistic license to improvise and come up with their own designs. Here you can see everyone busy painting their masks.
IMG_6691That is Goktug from Turkey and Mita from Indonesia painting away. Mita seems to be really engrossed in painting her one.
IMG_6718  Rose from Mongolia looks absolutely delighted with her version of the mask.
IMG_6712  Jessica’s mask with an El Salvadorian flair to it.
IMG_6719 Hoang from Vietnam striking an artistic pose.
IMG_6713  Nguyen Linh Huong has a bright smile to match the brightness of her mask.

and this is my mom’s final version with a definite Nepali twist to it.

IMG_6710They got to use hairdryers to dry their masks once they were done painting them.
IMG_6728 The finishing touch was the black cloth attached to the mask to represent hair and the string to hold the mask in place.
IMG_6734The customary group picture taken wearing the masks.IMG_6717 The mask did have a weird effect on some people and made them come up with new forms of bizarre equations.IMG_6776Then they were off to learn the mask dance ‘Talchum’ (탈춤) with their newly made masks in place.IMG_6787They even had a dance instructor to guide them through the various steps.
IMG_6805This one looks like they are learning to fly…
IMG_6801Hmm… and this one looks like they are all doing ‘Namaste’….
IMG_6822Of course, this is how the professionals do it.
IMG_6823Looks pretty spectacular, doesn’t it?
The best part for me of course was that I got to keep the mask my mom made.
Here is a demonstration of the Korean mask dance ‘Talchum’ (탈춤).
Similarly in Nepal there are various kinds of mask dances related to various religious festivals mainly in the Newari communities and Buddhist traditions of the hilly and Himalayan regions of Nepal.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Buddhist Temple in South Korea - The Bongeun Temple (봉은사)


The Bongeun Temple was founded in 794, though most of the buildings have been renovated and rebuilt several times over the centuries.  It remains one of Korea’s most traditional Buddhist temples.  To reach Bongeunsa you can either take subway line no. 2 upto Samsung station (gate 6), or subway line no.7 to Chungdam station (gate 2).


Thursday temple life program for foreigners is held every Thursday from 2 p.m. till 4 p.m. There is also a temple stay program for which you need to make a reservation. For more information kindly visit the official temple website at and on more information on temple stay Korea-wide you can visit this website at

IMG_9466 This is Jinyeomoon (Jinyeo Gate- 진여문) and it represents eternal reality.  As one enters this gate one is seeking the unchanging truth.  Inside the gate you can find the statues of four devas, Sacheonwang ( 사천왕), or four heavenly kings, who represent protectors of the Buddhist lands, Dharma and its followers.IMG_9597This is the Haesoogwaneumsang (해수관음상) statue.  It represents the Korean traditional Bodhisattva of Compassion. The lotus flower and the pond depict harmony with nature.IMG_9469 Bupwangroo (법왕루). It houses 3.300 private small statues of the Boddhisattva of  Compassion.

IMG_9586 This intricate mural on the ceiling of Bupwangroo, as well as the many elaborate paintings found on the walls and ceilings of the temples represent stories of the Buddhist faith, including the story of the origin of the Bongeun temple.IMG_9482This is in front of Daewoongjeon (대웅전), or the main temple. It is the most important temple of the Bongeunsa and the center of all religious activities.  IMG_9486

I had a tough time catching up with the others and felt dwarfed by the stone steps. IMG_9500People praying at the main temple.IMG_9504Jijangjeon (지장전)  rebuilt after it was burnt down in the spring of 2002.  It was built for Bodhisattva Jijang (지장) who had sworn to save all mankind from pain and hardship by becoming medicinal herbs.IMG_9522Inside of Jijangjeon (지장전), a priest was about ready to start their daily prayers.IMG_9512 Yeongsanjeon (영산전) is located at a height with a magnificent view and aesthetic ambience. The name translates into ‘Eagle Peak Mountain’ and symbolizes a connection with Buddha’s disciples in India.IMG_9531The temple houses a statue of Buddha at the centre flanked on the sides by statues of his disciples Gaseopjonja and Ananjonja.IMG_9547These strings of purses were hung outside Bookgeukbojeon (북극보전). The Mountain Spirit, Big Dipper and the Hermit sage (Naban recluse) are enshrined inside the building.IMG_9553Statue of Mireukdaebul (미륵대불), or Maitreya- the Buddha of the future. Standing at a height of 23 meters this is the tallest statue of Buddha in Korea.  Buddha was born Siddhārtha Gautama around c. 563 BCE in Lumbini, presently in Nepal. He attained enlightenment after meditating under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. He passed away at the age of 80 in present day Kushinagar, India. The statue of Maitreya symbolizes hope for Maitreya,or Buddha of the future, to arrive and salvage mankind. IMG_9569   Me and my friends thought we would also try to meditate along with the others but I tell ya it was way too hot to meditate outside.  Hats off to people who withstood the heat to meditate.IMG_9585 Jonggak (종각) Literally means a bell pavilion.IMG_9590JBowoodang (보우당) building was constructed after the October 2000 ASEM (Asia- Europe Meeting) summit meeting. Free medical check ups and free lunch for the homeless and foreign workers are provided here on Sundays.


It was a hot summer day and by the end of the temple tour I was quite exhausted and ready to go home and rest.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Nepali cultural program in Korea

 IMG_9679 On August 16th 2009 SONSIK (Society of Nepali Students in Korea) had organized a cultural program in Seoul National University. The main sponsors of the program were the Seoul Global Centre and Hi Seoul. For more information about these organizations please visit these websites :   and You can also find a lot of useful information about Seoul city in these websites. Anyway, back to the program. The program kicked off with a Nepali welcome song by the Nepali cultural troupe in South Korea NKCF (Nepal-Korea Cultural Forum)

IMG_9841The MCs for the evening were Ms. Jung Yeon Lee of South Korea and Mr. Prakash Dhamala of Nepal. Mr. Dhamala is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Public Health in Seoul National University and Ms. Lee is doing her Bachelors degree in business administration in Donguk University. They did a splendid job of hosting the program.IMG_9686 This dance represents the mythical story of how Kathmandu valley was created by Manjushree. According to one of the legends, Kathmandu valley was a lake surrounded by hills during the Pleistocene era. It is believed that Bodhisattva Manjushree, a divine saint from China, had come here for pilgrimage and saw a huge lotus emanating bright light at the centre of the lake Nagarad. It represented Swayambhu, a manifestation of the Adhi Buddha, the primordial Buddha. So he cut a deep gorge allowing the water to drain from the lake because he wanted to observe and worship the lotus.The base of the lake became the present Kathmandu valley and the gorge is called Chobhar gorge now.IMG_9709This dance represents the Gurung community of Nepal. The Gurungs traditionally inhabited the Central and Western hilly regions of Nepal.   IMG_9725The gentleman playing the traditional Nepali flute ‘Murali’ is Amrit Poudel. He is currently a PhD scholar in Pharmacy in Seoul National University.IMG_9718 This dance is from the Tamang community of Nepal who originally inhabited the North central hilly regions of Nepal.IMG_9736 This lady is Punamaya Maharjan (Suwal), a PhD scholar of Plant Biochemistry at Seoul National University. She is doing a Newari dance. The Newars are believed to be the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley.IMG_9753 The two ladies above did a dance representing the Magar community of Nepal whose homeland extends from the western and southern edges of the Dhaulagiri section of the high Himalayas range south to the Mahabharat foothill range and eastward into the Gandaki.IMG_9773 This dance represents a popular modern folk song in Nepal ‘aadhi khola urlera ayo’. The lyrics talk of the rush of water in a river and how the woman is compelled to come to meet her love because he beckoned her. Watch the original version of the song below.

 IMG_9760There were people from all over the world in the audience.IMG_9732 Including a lot of kids as well.IMG_9837 This is Olivia from Poland. She won a prize in the quiz by correctly answering that the height of Mt. Everest is 8848 meters.IMG_9839Even my teachers from the daycare came to watch the program and I was so thrilled to see them. (명지 어린이집 원장님과 선생님)IMG_9790Some more Nepali SNU students with a visiting Professor from Nepal and Korean audience.IMG_9858

IMG_9865 Rock stars!! “ma yesto chu ma tyesto chu jasto bhaye pani dami chu”

Check out Roshan Bhattarai’s website - IMG_9795 Gentleman on the left is Yadav Khanal, Deputy Chief of Mission, Counselor of Nepal Embassy here in Korea.  Gentleman in the middle is the President of NKCF, Mr. Prem Gurung.IMG_9852The songs had a lot of people up on stage dancing away to their hearts content. IMG_9788 Gentleman on the left is Mr. Park from Gwanak Gu- Namyeong-dong community center.IMG_9787Executive director of Seoul Global Center on the left, President of SONSIK Mr. Tek Ghimire is currently doing his PhD in Seoul National University, and Mr. Yadav.IMG_9806 Last of the Gala was the folk song ‘Resham Firiri’. It had everyone tapping their feet and the audience joined in as well to shake a leg.IMG_9828The cultural program ended with the cutting of the cake ceremony and there sure were a lot of candles on that cake.

Also, if you need more information about Nepal Korea Cultural Forum (NKCF) you can visit their website   Here’s one of their introductory videos -