In Korea, a Tal means a mask. The Tall is ancient Chinese word that means a face, a tool for face, a mask, etc. The word Tal indicates a mask and disease in Korea. That is why Korean masks normally represent the face of Demons or monsters that cause various diseases. Ancient Korean believed that the mask of strong demons can drive weak demons out.
Origin[change | change source]
Korean masks have been used since the 6th century. The oldest mask in Korea is lacquered mask that was excavated in one of the tumuli in Gyeongju. In the past, they were used for shamanistic ceremonies to drive away evil spirits or raise ghosts. Also, they were used for mask plays like BongsanTalchum, SandaeNoli.
Masks in theatre[change | change source]
The themes of mask plays are various. Basic themes are biting satire, ritual dances, exorcism rites, parody of human weaknesses, social evils and the privileged class. A lot of talchum, or plays mock stereotyped types of annoying personalities within the lower classes. The most distinguishing feature of the Korea mask plays is variations of specific lines in plays. According to actors and regions, the specific lines in plays can be changed. With regional variations, the mask play is usually performed on traditional holidays.
Shamanistic masks[change | change source]
Korean masks used in shamanistic practices were made of wood with several coasts of lacquer to give the masks gloss, and waterproof them for wearing. In Korea, many people have believed that lacquer tree can drive away evil spirits that’s why Korean used lacquered masks. The horrifying or grotesque masks were used in shamanistic practices for their ability to evoke fear, and humor, in ceremonial rites.