Every year at the end of September the 10-day Andong Mask Dance Festival takes place. It is the largest mask festival in the world with many performances, masks, music, dance and good food. Don’t skip it if you are here at the beginning of October.
Although it is in an international festival, the festival undoubtedly has something to do with the masks of Hahoe. Some of these masks are on the list of cultural heritage in South-Korea. But what’s the story behind it and why should you take a look at the Andong Mask Dance Festival? Well, it all started with a legend from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).
The legend of the Hahoe Masks
Huh Doryong was a young man who lived in Hahoe. One night he was dreaming, until one of the gods made an appeal to him. Make 14 masks for me, but make sure no one sees it!
Huh Doryong barricaded his house… with reed, because that’s how it went in those days and started to work. For days he was working and nobody noticed him. Until a young woman, reasonably in love with Huh, went looking for him. She went to his house, made a hole in the paper window and found out what he was doing. But from that moment things went wrong!
Huh started vomiting spontaneously. And he got a haemorrhage. It led to his death, while he was working on the last mask and only had to make the chin. The gods had punished him, because someone had seen the masks before they were finished. The young woman also died shortly after Huh’s death. Died of heartbreak and guilt…
Tip: At the entrance of the Hahoe Folk Village you will find the Hahoe Mask Museum. Masks from the region, but also from all over the world can be seen here. If you are not here during the Andong Mask Festival and you want to know more about these special masks, this is a possible replacement.
The 14 masks of Hahoe
Huh made a total of 14 masks, but 3 of them were lost. The remaining 11 masks are on the list of the cultural heritage of South Korea. The masks have been used for the Hahoe Pyolshingut Mask Dance for centuries. This famous dance has also been on the list of cultural heritage since 1980. The most important thing about the Pyolshingut is to make the gods happy for a good harvest, peace and prosperity.
In the Pyolshingut there is a humorous and dramatic critique on the people of the high class, such as the aristocrat, the scholar and the monk. The lower class no longer accepts it and demands more understanding for their situation. Playing the Pyolshingut creates more harmony between the lower and higher classes.
And of course each mask represents its own social class. The same can be said of the mask without chin that Huh Doryong could not finish, called Imae T’al. He belongs to the lower class and is a servant of the sonbi, the scholar. More information? On the website below you can find her meaning explained per mask:
Around the Andong Mask Dance festival…
The Andong Mask Dance Festival is now an international festival and is no longer just about the famous Hahoe masks. And that makes it very diverse and very colourful. Dance groups from African countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia, but also from Asian countries like China perform daily. For international guests a ticket has to be bought for a small fee to see them. But for the rest, everything is freely accessible!
For 10 days there is something to do every day from the beginning of the afternoon until the evening. It starts with a long line of stalls, where various Korean games are played and where you can get local and Korean dishes. Especially the fans of spit-roasted pigs get their money’s worth here!
There’s a main stage where most of the day there are performances. So I watched with a South Korean boy from my hostel to a fight with masks between North and South Korea. He didn’t really like this performance, especially because he told me that he wanted North and South Korea to be united. But when asked how no idea!
Planning a visit to the Andong Mask Dance Festival in South-Korea?
How do I get there?
As mentioned before, the Andong Mask Dance Festival takes place at the end of September until the beginning of October. For the exact period see the following site: http://www.maskdance.com/eng/main.asp
The festival site is close to the station along the Nakdong River. But during this period, Hahoe Folk Village and Andong Folk Village also have extra dance performances.
Would you like to read more about Andong?
- Andong: Top 6 sights, accommodation and transport
- Hahoe Folk Village: Back to the Joseon Dynastie
Or about South-Korea?
- Haesindang Park, Sinnam | A strange Penis Park in South-Korea
- Tongil Park, Gangneung | Espionage! A North Korean submarine
Did you like the Andong Mask Dance Festival? Please feel free to leave a message below!