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HomeCulture Hahoe mask dance, a humorous social satire that mocks elites

[Visual History of Korea] Hahoe mask dance, a humorous social satire that mocks elites

The butcher (center) tries to sell bull’s testicles to the scholar (left) and the nobleman during a Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori mask dance in the Hahoe village of Andong, North Gyeongsang Province. Photo © Hyungwon Kang

Humor has been the essential grease that nourishes life’s joy for ordinary Koreans.

Among many humorous Korean music and performing arts, Andong Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori, or the Hahoe mask dance, gives performers the courage to say and do a multitude of outrageous things at the expense of the social elite.

Nine surviving masks from the Goryeo Kingdom, some 900 years ago, combine to make National Treasure No. 121. They represent the monk, nobleman, scholar, butcher, bride, Bune the entertainer, granny, Choraengi, the servant to the nobleman, and Imae, the servant to the scholar.

Interestingly, only four masks — monk, nobleman, scholar and butcher — have moveable jaws, giving their characters’ the freedom of speech….

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