Talchum, A Unique Mask Dance Drama of Korea

Learn about Korea's mask dance drama, Talchum, through a collaborative exhibition of KF ASEAN Culture House and UNESCO ICHCAP

Alternative Identities: Masks of ASEAN and Korea (2023)ICHCAP

Jointly held by KF ASEAN Culture House and UNESCO ICHCAP, the exhibition Alternative Identities: Masks of ASEAN and Korea introduces "other faces" created under the theme of “Mask,” the cultural heritage of humanity.

The masks of Korea and ASEAN, which encompass the accumulated aesthetic sense and techniques of handicrafts in each region, can be said to reflect aesthetic traditions in different epochs of each country.

This story is about the 5th section of the exhibition. Explore section 1 here, 2 here and 3 and 4  here.

Alternative Identities: Masks of ASEAN and Korea_22 (2023)ICHCAP

Section 5. Talchum

Talchum, the Korean mask dance, is a unique art form that combines Korean history, tradition, faith, and folk elements.

Andong Hahoe Byeolshin Gut Tal Game by Cheol-jae JeongICHCAP

Talchum satirizes the lives of ordinary people and yangban, the aristocratic class. The Tal (mask), which depicts characters in the stories, implies the characteristics and meanings of each region. 

In this section, thirteen mask dance dramas of the Republic of Korea inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2022 are introduced.

Yeongno, Dongnae YaryuICHCAP

Yaryu (Deulnoreum, playing in the field)

Yaryu originated from Ogwandae and was initially practiced in inland areas of Gyeongsangnam-do province before being disseminated to the areas of Suyeong, Dongnae, and Busanjin along the sea route, began with groups of entertainers in Bamma-ri, Chogye.

Malttugi, Suyeong YaryuICHCAP

It is said that the name Yaryu came from the performances being held in open spaces like large fields. A particular characteristic of Yaryu was naturalized by non-professional performers—that is, villagers.

Malttugi, Goseong Ogwangdae by Lee DoyeolICHCAP


Ogwandae, a type of mask dance drama in the southern region (especially, the western area of the Nakdong River), began with groups of entertainers in Bamma-ri, Chogye. 

Yeongno Yangban, Tongyeong OgwangdaeICHCAP

It is characterized by portraying the lives of ordinary people including satire on yangban nobility and apostate monks, and the issue of wives and concubines. 

Bukbang Heukje Jang gun, Gasan OgwangdaeICHCAP

Down to Nakdong River, it is called “Yaryu” (Deulnoreum, playing in the field) in the region of Dongnae and Suyeoung in Busan, and “Ogwandae” in regions of Tongyeong, Goseong, and Gasan.

Malttugi, Gangnyeong TalchumICHCAP

Hwanghae-do Talchum

Hwanghae-do Talchum can be classified into two types by region of Pyeongsan and Girin in Hwanghae-do province: one is Bonsan Talchum, popular in the northern area, and the other is Haeju Talchum, popular in the southern area. 

Mokjung, Eunyul TalchumICHCAP

The common characteristic of these two mask dance dramas is to practice Gilnori and rites before the play.

Mok Jung, Bongsan TalchumICHCAP

Eunyul Talchum displays a relationship with Bongsan Talchum and Haeju Talchum, both of which stem from Hwanghaedo Talchum.

Om Jung, Songpa Sandae NoriICHCAP

Sandae Nori

Sandae Nori is performed in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do Province of Korea on the full moon day of January, Dano (the fifth day of the fifth month), Baekjung (the Hungry Ghost Day of Buddhism), and Chuseok (the Mid-Autumn Festival) in the lunar calendar. 

Chuibal-I, Yangju Byeolsandae NoriICHCAP

An apostate monk, a fallen yangban, a shaman, and a traveling entertainer appear in the play, and they satirize reality by performing dance, mime, words of blessing, and jokes.

Kkok Soe, Bukcheong Saja NoreumICHCAP

Bukcheong Saja Noreum

Bukcheong Saja Noreum is performed with a lion mask on the full moon day of January in the lunar calendar in Bukcheong-gun, Hamgyeongnam-do province. It was widely practiced to expel evil spirits and wish for the peace of villages.

Somae Kaksi, Gangneung Gwanno GamyeongeukICHCAP

Gangneung Gwanno Gamyeongeuk

Gangneung Gwanno Gamyeongeuk is a mask play originally performed by ‘gwanno’, a special class of servants who belonged to public office...

...and it is performed during the Gangneung Danoje Festival, which was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Yangban, Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori by Kim WanbaeICHCAP

Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori

Byeolsingut refers to a gut (shamanistic ritual) to pray for the peace of the village to Seonghwang, a village guardian deity. It sharply satirizes apostate monks and yangban nobility.

Credits: Story

2023 Collaborative Exhibition
Alternative Identities: Masks of ASEAN and Korea (April 26, 2023 - July 23, 2023)
Organized by: Korea Foundation ASEAN Culture House; UNESCO ICHCAP
Sponsored by: Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Cultural Heritage Administration; International Mask Arts & Culture Organization
Cooperation: Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Malaysia; Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia; Center for Research and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in Viet Nam; Thammasat University in Thailand

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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