The blind man making mock mourning.
Dasiraegi is a unique form of farce-drama in the point that it is performed as entertaining part of funeral ceremony. That is, it was originated to alleviate the bereaved family's grief through humour as well as to help the deceased to make an easy passage into the Land of Bliss. It is performed by male actors during the mourning ceremony before the burial of someone who died a natural death after a long and happy life. It deserves special attention in the sense that it preserves the ancient funeral customs of Korea and other countries conducted with dance and music for the ascension of dead spirit to heaven.
Dasiraegi has been handed down and performed exclusively in Jeonra-do region, among which Jindo, an island located in the southern end of Jeonranam-do Province, is most famous for its high artistic standard. The performers belong to the communal burial organization called sangdu-gye. But this rare funeral entertainment is disappearing as Western funeral ceremony becomes popular.
The etymology of the term Dasiraegi is ambiguous. Some scholars assign Chinese characters to it to mean many people enjoy themselves together, an old custom that dates back to the period of Three Kingdoms in ancient Korea. Others interpreted it as to be born again. According to ancient Chinese historical record of Sui Dynasty, the burial custom of Koguryo, an ancient Kingdom of north Korea, had been vibrant with chants, dances, and mock dramas accompanied by various music. As a proof, the burial processions showing mourners dancing and musicians following behind are shown in the murals of ancient Koguryo tombs. This indicates that dance, music and drama were accompanied at the burials of that time.
Usually Dasiraegi is performed on the last night just before the deceased leaves the house. People carry the empty coffin while drinking and singing the song of pallbearers (Sangyeo-sori)and Dasiraegi performance is followed. Dasiraegi has five acts. Act I is the piece of Mock Mourners, in which mock mourners and pallbearers exchange comic dialogues. In Act II, a blind monk and a flirting female dance to wanton words. Soon, the female gets pregnant and delivers a baby, whose real father is the senior monk, not the blind who is much pleased with the baby regarding him as his own. In Act III, pallbearers sing a dirge carrying an empty coffin and a special rite for cleansing the dead spirit is followed. Act IV is composed of a labor song while digging a grave after the company arrived in the burial place. After the burial, some other comic entertainments are performed to heighten the mirth.
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Society for Preservation of Jindo Dasiraegi
Ms. Young-Il Heo
Professor, Department of Dance
Korean National University of Arts (Korean National Institute of Cultural Properties)