Korean Cultural Centre India is holding a workshop on Bongsan Talchum, one of the famous Mask Dance from September 22-24, 2014. Resource persons are coming from The National folk Museum of Korea, Seoul to hold this workshop.What is Talchum?
According to one theory, the word tal was borrowed from Chinese, and is now used to mean ‘mask’ in Korean. However, the original sense was ‘to let something go’ or ‘to be free’.
The masks offered freedom for performers to anonymously express their criticisms of powerful local people, such as members of the aristocracy or the Buddhist monastic hierarchy. Some of the talchum, or plays, also mock stereotyped versions of annoying personalities within the lower classes: the drunkard, the gossip, the flirt or the constantly-complaining grandmother.
Other scholars note that the root tal appears in the Korean language to denote illness or misfortune. For example,talnatda means ‘to become ill’ or ‘to have trouble’. The talnori, or mask dance, originated as a shamanist practice meant to drive evil spirits of illness or bad luck out of an individual or a village. The shaman (mudang) and her assistants would put on masks and dance in order to scare away the demons.
In any case, traditional Korean masks have been used for funerals, curing ceremonies, satirical plays, and pure entertainment for centuries.
Early History of Talchum
The first talchum performances probably took place during the Three Kingdoms Period, 18 BCE to 935 CE. The Silla Kingdom (57 BCE to 935 CE) had a traditional sword dance called kommu; the dancers may have worn masks.
Silla-era kommu was very popular during the Koryo Dynasty (918 to 1392 CE), and by that time the performances certainly included masked dancers. By the late Koryo period, in the 12th to 14th centuries, talchum as we know it had emerged.
The Bachelor Huh invented the Hahoe style of masks from the Andong area, according to the story, but unknown artists all over the peninsula were hard at work creating vivid masks for this unique form of satirical play.
Individual tal represents different characters from the plays. This particular mask is Choegwari, the old apostate Buddhist monk. During the Koryeo period, many Buddhist clergy held considerable political power. Corruption was rampant, and the high monks indulged not only in feasting and bribe-collecting, but also in the pleasures of wine, women and song. Thus, the corrupt and lusty monk became an object of mockery for the common people in talchum.
In the different plays in which he stars, Choegwari is shown feasting, drinking and reveling in his wealth. The fullness of his chin shows that he loves food. He also becomes enamoured of the aristocrat’s flirty concubine, Bune, and carries her away. In one scene, we find Choegwari appearing out from under the girl’s skirt, in a shocking violation of his monastic vows.
Incidentally, to western eyes the red color of this mask makes Choegwari appear somewhat demonic, but that is not the Korean interpretation. In many regions, white masks represented young women (or occassionally young men), red masks were for middle-aged people, and black masks signified the elderly.
For workshop details:
Public Relation & Communication Coordinator
Korean Cultural Centre India (주인도 한국문화원)
The Embassy of the Republic of Korea(주인도 한국대사관)
25 A, Ring Road, Lajpat Nagar 4, New Delhi-110024, India
T : 91-11-4334-5233 M : 91-9899917585; 9716232722