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What is the meanings of a mask?
How did people make masks in ancient times?
Who made masks for the first time?
What are the uses of a mask?
Masks are not only in Korea but also in many foreign countries
Who made masks?
What were masks made of?
 
A mask is called 'Gamyeon', which literally means 'a false face'. Its old Korean word is 'Deotboigi'. It means 'a covered look'.
'Tal' (mask) has two meanings. As in 'Talnada', it means a bad thing, a disaster or something like that as well as 'to remove such a bad thing'.
One of the purposes of mask plays is to put out bad disasters.
Shellfish masks unearthed at Dongsam-dong, Busan are assumed to have been made around 5000 years ago in the Stone Age. It is the oldest mask found in Korea. People think that it was probably used to cover the face in hunting or to appease the souls of hunted animals in ritual ceremonies.
People probably made masks first in around B.C. 5000 in the Stone Age or even earlier. In Korea, many shell masks were discovered from a shell mound at Dongsam-dong, which evidence that there were masks in around B.C. 5000 in the Stone Age. In a large shell, two eye holes and a mouth hole are made. It looks quite interesting. Even our children friends can make it easily. Masks in ancient time were not difficult to make. They were made of materials that can be easily obtained around us.

Samguksagi describes five plays in those days. In the description is found a title 'Daemyeon,' which is about masks.

It reads as follows:
He wears a golden mask
Holding a whip with a jingling bell, he drives out ghosts
Short beating, long rhythm, a round of dance
Like a phoenix flying into

Yanye is thousand miles away
Crossing over flowing sands
Yellow hair has fallen out and dusted Buye
Happily play thanks to goodness from birth
What animals can rival it!

Daemyeon is known to wear a golden mask, hold a whip with a bell in his hand and dance a frightening dance to drive out evil spirits. It reminds us of the dance of Malddugi or Chuibari who teases wicked Yangban in mask plays.
Sanye must be a play imported from a distant foreign country. The play refers to the lion play, in which the lion as the king of animals expelled evil spirits. People played it wishing something good may happen.

In this way various mask plays have been handed down from old times. In some ages, mask plays were managed by the government... In addition, performers formed a troupe and performed mask plays, travelling all around the country.

1. Mask play
2. Funeral
3. Narye (a ritual for expelling evil spirits)
4. An object of worshipping
 
1. Masks for play...
Have you ever had a mask play with friends? Words in mask plays are a bit difficult to understand but they are also interesting and humorous.
Mask plays sometimes satirize the world. Big issues in the real world are interestingly expressed in the stories of mask plays.
There are big issues in each age. Then what was the biggest issue in the Chosun Period? In the Chosun Dynasty, social standing was very important and Yangban was the highest class. How would the life of people other than Yangban is? They were oppressed by Yangban in many ways. Thus common people made masks and expressed their grievances by satirizing Yangban in mask plays.
Mask plays also contain a story about the bad conduct of a Buddhist monk. They are satires on an apostate monk. In the story, an old monk falls in love with a young woman and apostatizes his faith.
There is also a story about a family, in which an old man keeps the second bride or a concubine. The story is called 'a conflict between the wife and a concubine'.
These stories all show our ancestors' gusto and satire.
 
2. Masks for funeral
There is a mask called ‘Bangsangsi’.
Bansangsi leads the funeral procession and drives away evil spirits. Man has two eyes but Bangsangsi has four eyes, so it is known to see evil spirits better.
 
3.Masks for Narye
There is a mask used in Narye. Narye is a ritual for driving away evil spirits.
The mask used in Narye is, as you know well, Cheoyong Mask.
The story about Cheoyong Mask is 'Cheoyong's Story' in Samgukyusa.

After playing until late at night in Seoul under the bright moon
Come home and look at the bed
There are four legs. Two are mine but whose are the other two?
I lost mine! What should I do?

Very touched by Cheoyong, the god of disease (smallpox) said, "I will not come in if I see the picture of your face." Here the god of disease means smallpox, which is also called 'Sonnimmama'. At those days, people suffered a lot from such a highly infectious disease without medicine. Thus people danced Cheoyong Dance wearing Cheoyong Mask to drive out evil spirits.

 
4. Objects of worshipping
Then were masks used only in play. No. There were many other uses. First, they were used for religious purposes. In these cases, masks were hung up in shrines.
Some of them are masks such as Changguissi and Somissi enshrined in Mt. Deokmul in Gaeseong. These masks were not worn on the face but set up in the shrine and worshipped.
Compared to masks in other countries, Korean masks have unique points or outstanding points.

Korean masks describe well the facial expression of Korean people. Korean masks were made after Korean people and, likewise, African masks were made after African people and European masks after European people. Thus when we Koreans see our masks we feel intimacy.
What is more, each Korean mask exhibits vividly the personality of the figure represented by the mask. Yangban is Yangban-like but, from the position of common people, it is formed into a pockmarked or harelipped person in order to tease Yangban. This was possible because mask plays were not for Yangban but for ordinary people. In this way, mask dances are imbued with common people's unique, humorous and satirical spirit. (On the other hand, a figure called Malddugi that represents themselves is big and red, showing off its health.)
Foreign masks particularly African masks used in plays are not so diverse as ours. However, they have many different uses. Masks were utilized in coming-of-age ceremonies, making war, treating disease, etc. On the contrary, many kinds of mask plays have developed in Asian countries such as China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia

Diverse mask plays are found in Africa as well. Masks were created and worn for various uses in coming-of-age ceremonies, secret social rituals, rituals for rain, going to war, praying for fortune, marking heroes, expelling diseases as performed by Songye tribe in Zaire, etc.

Currently masks are made by specialists belonging to each mask dance preservation society (registered as an important intangible cultural asset). Masks are made for mask dances. Masks for Bongsan Mask Dance are made by the Bongsan Mask Dance Preservation Society. But not all masks are made in this way. Hahoi masks are made by Kim Dong-pyo, Goseong Ogwangdae masks by Lee Do-yeol, Dongrae Yaryu masks by Cheon Jae-dong and Yangju Byeolsandae Play masks by Yoo Han-su. There are many other mask artists.
Because masks were usually made by ordinary people, easily obtainable materials were used such as gourds, paper, wood and straw. Masks were shaped, taking the advantages of each material to the full. The appearance of Yangban was created from common people's view.

Because it came out of common people's idea, Yangban's face is small, white, powerless and feeble.

On the contrary, Malddugi and Chuibari that represent common people were made big and red, indicating that they are healthy and strong.