Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori: A Traditional Masked Drama

In the background we see cloudy sky, part of a green hill, and the Nakdong river.  In the foreground is a stage with people wearing clothes of the Joseon era playing musical instruments, and two people in deer costumes dancing.  Below, we see the backs of the heads of some of the audience members

Hahoe village in Andong City (described in the previous post) is famous for preserving its traditional drama featuring masks, known as ‘byeolsingut talnori’.

The map shows that Gyeongsang-buk Province is in eastern-central South Korea, and that Andong is in the center of the province.

The original purpose of the masked drama was to serve as a shamanic rite to appease the god Seonangsin. There’s more information here.


The drama makes fun of the elites in society, particularly the yangban class, but also features a lustful monk.

There's the lustful monk and young woman

There’s the lustful monk and young woman

In the Joseon era, masked dramas satirizing the upper class were common throughout Korea. The yangban class tolerated these dramas since they preferred to be mocked than to deal with an actual revolt.


The Hahoe Mask Drama is performed every Saturday at the theatre next to the Hahoe Mask Museum (you can read about the founder of the Hahoe Mask Museum here).

The widow's episode

The widow’s episode

However, during the Andong Mask Festival, the mask drama is performed inside Hahoe Village itself, in the Mansongjeong Pine Forest, which is between the built-up part of the village and the river. All of these photos were taken there.

The ox and the butcher

The ox and the butcher

I didn’t understand any of the dialogue since it was all in Korean, but that was not the point. It was pretty clear that it featured stock characters and made fun of people, like a commedia dell’arte play.


My German companion thought it was a bit boring. I can understand. It’s not exactly a suspenseful drama, at least if you don’t understand Korean.


However, I didn’t expect this to be a thriller. The backdrop was awesome, I liked that they had all of the musicians in traditional clothing, and I was interested in seeing all of the stock characters and watching how they behave.


All in all, I am glad I saw it. It gave me a hint of what common people in the Joseon Kingdom felt and thought, and I enjoy live theatre in general. People who don’t go to Andong itself can watch the drama on Youtube.



About Sara K.

Sara K. is an aromantic asexual from California who has previously lived in Taiwan. She blogs at the notes which do not fit, has previously been a contributor at Manga Bookshelf, and has written guest posts for Hacking Chinese. She enjoys reading, travel, live theatre, learning languages, and gardening.
This entry was posted in Art, Festival, Gyeongsangbuk, Hanok/Folk Village, Joseon, Mostly Photos, Performance, Shamanism, World Heritage and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hahoe Byeolsingut Talnori: A Traditional Masked Drama

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