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  • Kin Da-hye

[Cultural Heritage] Masked ball in Korea, Talchum: Ulsoo! Jihwaja! It’s awesome!

No.161 / Dec 12, 2022

Have you ever heard about Talchum? This is Korea’s inherent masked dance with a long history. Talchum is listed UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 3 December this year. Now, Korea has 22 human intangible cultural heritages including Talchum.

Talchum is a comprehensive art form that contains all elements of dance, music, and theater. It is an art of communication that is completed only when active participation such as audience’s sympathy and boos is included. This is mainly a dynamic and pleasant satire of social, class, and moral contradictions in the pre-modern era that reveals its absurdity. It wears a mask that exaggerates the character’s personality and conveys meaning through songs, dances, and plays. Also, it is valuable as a traditional heritage for reconciliation and harmony because it not only reveals absurdities and conflicts and merely satirizes them, but also ends with a dance of reconciliation. Talchum, which was very popular during the Joseon Dynasty, was widely distributed in the 1980s with the popular movements in Korean universities and has now become a folk game that many people watch and enjoy.

Among the 18 types of Talchum, the most well-known masked dances include Bongsan Talchum, Hahoe Talchum, and Bukcheong Saja Noreum. Bongsan Talchum is evaluated as the most artistic mask dance. It is the National Intangible Cultural Property No. 17, and it is about a monk who violates Buddhist teachings and lives a corrupt life and a lion who is ordered to scold him. Hahoe Talchum has been in existence since the Goryeo Dynasty, and it is the oldest mask dance among existing Talchum. Hahoe Talchum has excellent communication skills with the audience and shows high skills to tourists in Andong Hahoe Folk Village. Bukcheong Saja Noreum is the most representative mask dance in the east coast region of Korea. It is played the biggest on the first full moon of the lunar year. The first part consists of 13 beats, which begins with a gutgeori rhythm that can be played repeatedly or reduced as necessary. The lion begins a slow Niliri (an expression depicting traditional Korean musical instruments, named to boost excitement) dance. The second part shows the appearance of the brave lion by performing a Neokduri dance (complaint dance) in a lively, disciplined movement. The third part goes to the fast-beat Gummori rhythm, the music speeds up, and the drumming is very turbulent.

The freedom of content and form of Talchum is constantly inspiring contemporary art creation related to socially critical themes, and it is an intangible heritage that meets the spirit of UNESCO’s Convention for the Intangible Cultural Heritage in that it gives identity and continuity to the community. Nowadays, anyone can easily access Korea’s unique culture such as Talchum if they want to. A night trip to Suwon Cultural Heritage is held every year at Suwon Hwaseong Fortress near our university, where you can enjoy various activities such as traditional performances of intangible cultural assets, busking, and traditional cultural experiences. Why do not you experience Korean Talchum and Korea’s unique culture that is endlessly charming?


By Kim Da-hye, AG Reporter

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