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Republic of Korea

Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori

Mask Play of Hahoe Byolshin-gut Ritual


A scene of Hahoe mask dance.

A group of masked performers enact various dances with satirical themes or exorcising intention. It is performed as the final stage of village ritual or festival.

Reasons for selection

Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori is one of the most ancient form of Korean mask plays. It is a precious example of Korean folk entertainment which has been enjoyed by common people for more than 1,000 years. It deals with several satirical themes that deliver people's social consciousness and describe their hard lives. Unlike many other mask plays of Korea, it is peculiar in the point that it uses wooden masks and that it is performed as an additional amusement after elaborate rituals ( Byolshin-gut )for community's wellbeing. Especially, some scholars indicated that some Hahoe masks ( tall ) have some similarities in shape to Japanses No masks, and this suggests some historical influences.

Area where performed

Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori has been transmitted exclusively in Hahoe-dong and Byungsan-ri in Andong-gun, Gyungsangbuk-do Province located in the south-east part of Korea.

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Theatre

Detailed explanation

The exact origin of Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori is not clear. According to old tales handed down orally, Heo family had settled in Hahoe village in the mid-period of Koryo Dynasty (AD 918-1392)and one young man of the family is said to have started to make Hahoe masks by God's command. But he died suddenly when a maid peeped in his working room out of love-sickness against God's command. It is said that HahoeByolshin-gut ritual and Talnori came to be performed to console his spirit after that time on. Its popularity declined after 1928 under the Japanese rule, but now is recovering with the assistance policy of Korean government.

Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori is preceded by the worship rite for the tutelary god of village. It used to be held twice a year on the 15th day of 1st lunar month and on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month every year while the elaborate Byolshin-gut shaman ritual was held every 10 years usually. Likewise, Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori shows a rare clue that proves the intimate relationship between ritual and theatre.

Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori is composed of five acts: 1)The Episode of Juji (mystic animal that ward off evil spirits), 2)The Episode of Baekjeong (butcher), 3)The Episode of Halmi (old woman), 4)The Episode of a Pagyeseung (apostate Buddhist monk), 5)The Episode of Yangban and Seonbi (aristocrat and scholar). The atmosphere of whole play is overwhelmed by comic satire and critical judgment for the moral corruption and stupidity of upper classes.

After the mask dance drama is over, another ceremony is conducted before the village shrine and the masks are turned in and kept in some sacred place. Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori was designated as Korean Intangible Cultural Heritage no. 69 in 1980 and its masks as National Treasure no. 121.

Publication and textual documentation

already available

Audio documentation

not yet available

Visual documentation

no information at present

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Society for Preservation of Hahoe Byolshin-gut Talnori

Data provider

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