Hahoe Pyolshin-Gut T'al-Nori is one of Korea's most traditional folk plays.
Handed down at Hahoe-ri, P'ungch'on-myon, Andong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Korea, the mask dance drama has been performed for centuries as a village ritual, Until 1928 the shaman ritual had been performed at intervals of three, five or sometimes ten years, depending on the revelation of the local goddess or an local circumstances. The performance began on lunar New Year's Day and continued at various places around the village until midmonth.
The village sacrificial rite was observed at Sonangdong, the village shaman shrine, early on the morning of January 15th.
The drama combines shaman rituals and popular entertainment. The village ritual was intended to please the local goddess and exorcise evil spirits. The village prayed for an abundant harvest and for peace and prosperity, while enjoying themselves performing the play. The whole village took park in the event and enjoyed the satirical story revealed in the drama.
It was said that if you did not have a chance to watch the mask dance performed in your lifetime, you could not go to heaven.
Like most other folk mask dance dramas handed down in rural communities across Korea, Hahoe Pyolshin-Gut T'al-Nori features various allegorical characters, such as Yangban(an arrogant aristocrat), Sonbi(a pedantic scholar), Chung(a depraved Buddhist monk), Imae(a foolish servant), Paekchong(a coarse butcher) and so on, Each of these characters represents a social class.
Conflicts among different classes and individuals were satirized to relieve social tensions among the families in the village.
The Hahoe mask dance differs from others in its more natural movements and simpler costumes. In addition, though the story is satirical and humorous, it does not culminate in the traditional ritual of burning the masks.
The dance is accompanied by non-ak, the traditional Korean farmers' percussion ensemble. Non-ak is korea's most popular and probably oldest dance music. The powerful sounds of the traditional quartet, comprising the kkwaenggwari(small gong), ching(large gong), puk(large drum) and changgo(long drum), pour forth a hypnotic beat.
Originating in ancient times, it was performed to celebrate important rural events, such as village sacrificial rites, rice planting and harvesting, as well as for enjoyment.
On most occasions today, the mask dance is performed simply as an entertainment, losing much of its original splendor and religious and social significance.
In 1980 the government, designated the mask dance drama as Important Intangible Cultual Property No. 69, to ensure its preservation and transmission to future generation. The Hahoe Pyolshim-Gut T'al-nori Preservation Society, Which revived and exclusively presents the mask dance, seeks not only to preserve the drama, but also to introduce one of Korea's greatest cultural treasures to the rest of the rest of the world.