Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

Home | Performing Arts
Performing Arts
Republic of Korea


Cheoyong's Dance


Cheoyong dance by five dancers in the courtyard.

Cheoyong-mu is a court ritual dance of Korea performed to ward off evils and to invite good luck.

Reasons for selection

Cheoyong-mu ( Cheoyong Dance)is a representative court mask-dance form of Korea with long tradition of more than 1,000 years. It has been performed for the purpose of driving away evil forces at the time of the national exorcistic ritual and festival mainly in the courtyard though its ritualistic intent became weakened as the festival tradition as its background got almost cut off nowadays. Cheoyong-mu demonstrates the essence of Korean mind in the point that it is related with familiar story of Cheoyong and that Cheoyong's generous character reflects Korean people's unique, optimistic attitudes toward outer reality as shown in his smiling mask. Besides, its elegant technique, mask, music and atmosphere contribute to the proper understanding of Korean traditional dance style.

Area where performed

Cheoyong-mu has been performed and preserved mainly in the Royal court with the assistance of Dynasty. Therefore, any special location for its transmission can not be defined.

Essential elements of the performing art

Dance, Music

Detailed explanation

Cheoyong-mu is said to have originated in the late period of Shinra dynasty. According to a historical record, at the time of King Heongang who ruled from 875 to 886, Cheoyong is described as a son of Dragon-king of the East Sea. There have been various interpretations on the identity of Cheoyong among scholars. One of the most plausible opinion is that he was a shaman, which is confirmed in the mystic song describing the exorcising ability of Cheoyong. According to it, he drove away the evil spirit who seduced his wife not by force but a persuasive song and gentle attitude. From that time on, his mask, song and dance came to be used as the magical means to ward off evils and the dance has been performed in the national exorcising ritual ( Narye )as well as some other festive occasions. In 15th century of Choson dynasty, it was changed from solo dance to five men's dance influenced by the Taoistic concept of Yin-Yang and Five Elements. During Choson dynasty, it became more stylized as it was adopted as a court dance. Cheoyong-mu was designated as Korean Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 39 in 1971.

The artistic excellence of Cheoyong-mu is proved in its dynamic, moderate style and its varied movement patterns such as confrontation, circle, square, pentagon and procession. In spite of its magical intention, Cheoyong-mu uses highly virtuous masks and controlled movements instead of threatening ones. Elegant court music is accompanied with the dance to heighten the ceremonious, ritualistic mood. The five color symbolism of costumes also represents the philosophical basis of Five Elements concept borrowed from China.

Publication and textual documentation

already available

Audio documentation

no information at present

Visual documentation

already available

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Society for Preservation of Cheoyong-mu

Data provider

Ms. Young-Il Heo
Professor, Department of Dance
Korean National University of Arts (Korean National Institute of Cultural Properties)
Address: N/A