탈 or we can say “Tal” is a mask. It is made by wood, paper, fur and gourd. Paper masks and gourd masks are prevalent, because they are easy to make and also lightweight and convenient to dance with. It depicts the face of human being, animal and so forth. Red, black, white and other primal colors are favored for effective characterization of the masks. The colors also identity the gender and age of the characters. An old person’s mask is black, for young man is red and for woman is white. In the traditional philosophy of identifying colors with directions and seasons, the black stands for the north and winter whereas the red stands for the south and summer. 탈 is developed in Korea as early as the prehistoric age and can be categorized in two kinds : religious masks and artistic masks.

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탈춤 or Talchum literally means a Korean dance performed while wearing a mask, miming, speaking, even sometimes singing, not just dances but play or dramas and traditionally always performed outdoors. They have their origins in the village shaman rituals and developed into mask dance-dramas full of entertainment. In mask dance-dramas, we can learn the wisdom of the ancestors. They overcame their difficulties enjoying the drama and found the unifying principle for relief of the daily struggle between the lower and the upper class. Mask dance-dramas are basically a folk art naturally developed among common people of Joseon society (1392-1910)

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Korean mask dance-dramas :

봉산탈춤 Bongsan Talchum
This dance is a form of mask dance-drama with musical accompaniment by the jeotdae (large cross bamboo flute), piri (vertical oboe), buk (double-headed barrel drum), janggo (hourglass drum), and haegeum (two-stringed fiddle). The mime movements, comic dialogues and songs can be devided into two main parts : drama, song and dance, devided into seven acts as follows :
Act I : Four young Buddhist monk’s dance.
Act II : Eight Buddhist monks.
scene 1 : Dance by Buddhist monks.
scene 2 : Drum play.
Act III : Dance and song by Sadang and Geosa.
Act IV : The old priest.
scene 1 : The play of the apostate Buddhist monk.
scene 2 : The play of the shoe seller.
scene 3 : The play of he prodigal.
Act V : Lion dance.
Act VI : The play of the aristocrats.
Act VII : The play of the old couple.

양주별산대놀이 Yangju byeolsandae nori
It has played primarily in April (chopail), May (danoh), July (Basin) and August (Thanksgiving) and also sometimes in the ceremony which prays for rain . The origin of its name was from the place where mask-playing started,Yang-ju province in Korea. It was the first designated Important Intangible Cultural Property among mask plays.

양주별산대놀이 can devided into eight acts, in general as follows :
Gil nori (Road play).
Prologue : Seomak Gosa.
Act I : The young Buddhist monk’s dance.
Act II : The boil monk and the young monk.
Act III : The Buddhist monk and the boil monk.
Act IV : Lotus leaf (The Spririt of Heaven) and the Winker (the Spirit of the Earth).
Act V : The eight Buddhist monks.
scene 1 : the play of Buddhist invocation.
scene 2 : the play of acupuncture.
scene 3 : the drum dance of the young dancing girl.
Act VI : The old monk.
scene 1 : the play of apostate Buddhist monk.
scene 2 : the play of the shoe seller.
scene 3 : the play of the prodigal.
Act VII : The man of letters.
scene 1 : the servants who seek a night’s lodging.
scene 2 : the play of the police inspector.
Act VIII : The white bearded old man and his wife.
Epilogue : The Jinogwi gut.

고성오광대 Goseong Ogwangdae
The performance usually played in Spring and autumn. Unlike the other five story traditional mask playing, Goseong ogwangdae has no ceremony exorcising evil spirits before and after the performance instead it is more entertainment.

The construction of the Ogwangdae mask plays differs according to the scenario. The current form of Goseong Ogwangdae is as follows :
Act I : The leper.
Act II : Ogwangdae.
Act III : Bibi (The Dragon Spirit).
Act IV : Seungmu (Buddhist monk’s dance).
Act V : Jemilju.

Book references :
An Introduction to Korean Traditional Performing Arts by Nam Sang-suk, Gim Hae-suk.
An Illustrated Guide to Korean Culture.
A Guide to Korean Cultural Heritage.


Videos :
BongSan Mask Dance(봉산탈춤) uploaded by jajimalgoboji on Youtube.
양주별산대놀이 uploaded by musyim on Youtube.
Goseong Ogwangdae 고성오광대 uploaded by CBSaeji on Youtube.