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.


  1. Kaibu - this is one of the best blogs I have read so far on your blogspot. Korea seems steeped in great traditions. Your mom is quite the artist - loved her Nepali twist mask.

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