Comparing and Contrasting the Chinese and Korean Masks

The Hahoe Mask are the traditional types of Korean masks which have been past from one generation to another. Myths on the origin of hahoe mask represented in the diagram below have shown the Korean beliefs of the origin of these hahoe Mask ([1]Mask Museum 2008)

According to the myth, Huh Chongkak the craftsman was devoted to his work of carving and chiseling the wood and out of them he made various types of laughing masks. His talent was given by god and he was ordered to make twelve types of   different masks with the condition that he should not come into contact with any other human being in the process of making the masks. It is only after he completes his task that he can even talk to those around him. The myth continues to say that as Huh Chongkak was just about to finish craving the upper half of the character seen in the image, a love struck girl called Imae the fool entered into the craftsman’s workshop to check what he was doing. Due to this Huh Chongkak suffered from a major brain hemorrhage and died without completing the lower jaw of his final mask seen in the upper left side of the image.

Of the hahoe masks, nine of them have been chosen as the Koran’s Cultural Treasures while the remaining three became extinct with time. The designated masks have been displayed in Japan museum but mainly have been out competed by Byulchea craving during the 12th century which has been seen as the time-worn masks. Byulchae was a tax collector. The Hahoe Village is well known a valuable cultural source of Korean culture. This region is assorted with the preservation of cultural elements since the Joseon Dynasty. This is a period during which architectural styles, valuable books, folk traditions and the old traditions were improved and preserved. The Hahoe masks were also developed during this time. These masks were imported to Japan to symbolize the war fought by General Konishi Yukinaga during the 1592 and 1598 war . These masks later disappeared for a period of 400 years ([2]Mask Museum 2008).

Other types of Korean include the hahoe talchum used for dances. The different regions of Korea have unique forms of art whereby even a small village center could have its own style. These masks range from the outlandish which are fairly realistic to the most monstrous forms. Other masks are oval in shape while others are in the shape of circles which are much exaggerated. Others are in triangular, pointed chin and long shapes. These various types of Korean masks are displayed in the Cyber Tal museum website. The finest masks are made of alder wood while others are either paper mache made or made from gourds and rice straws. To hold the mask in the right position, the masks have attachment to the hood using a black string which camouflages with hair. Tal masks in Korea are used during religious and shamanist dramas, dances and ceremonies. It is believed that the term Tal was borrowed from the Chinese which means to be free or do something in the Chinese language ([3]Korean cultural Services NY, 2008).

Masks are mainly used to offer performers with the freedom to autonomously their criticisms to aspects in the society and mainly to the powerful leaders of a given nation such as the Buddhists monastic hierarchy or aristocracy members. The plays or the talchum were meant to bring about mockery to the people with annoying personalities by criticizing their stereotyped versions among the people of the lower class such aspects include, flirting, gossiping , drunkardness and constant complains. The mask dance called talnori in Korean language is said to have originated from the practices of the shamanist which was mainly meant to chase away, bad luck, illness and evil spirits fro the village or from an individual. The assistance of shaman and shaman put own masks and dance to drive away demons and evil spirits. Other ceremonies which the Korean masks have been used are curing ceremonies, weddings, funerals and in satirical plays for centuries.

Chinese masks

Chinese masks just like the Korean masks are still used in the present day as they play two major roles as elements of the Chinese culture. The Chinese people wear the New Year masks to welcome the beginning of the new years every where across the world. Another type of masks in Chinese culture are the Opera masks are the drawings and paintings done on the face of the singers and actors to show the characteristics and traits of the role played by individual actors. The opera masks are therefore not carvings like the Hahoe masks of Korea but instead use skin friendly painting substance on the face of the users ([4]Zhang, 2007).

Another difference with the Hahoe masks is that the Chinese mask particularly the new years are not seen in any other occasion with the new years like in wedding and funeral ceremonies because they are specially worn to welcome a new year. These news years’ parties are done for the whole week and are highly extravagant and exiting. People are allowed to wear the masks up to the final lantern festival called the Yuan Xiao. These masks show the moods and emotions such as happiness and enjoyment to fit the mood of the New Year’s festivities or ceremony([5]The magazine of Santa Clarita 2008). No other craving showing sadness in these masks can be seen as for the case of the opera masks and the Hahoe masks.

The new years period among the Chinese is a time where people buy plenty of foods, new clothes and gifts and among the gifts there are a variety of works of crafts and art such as the Chinese masks. These masks come in different bright colors such as pink, greed, red and yellow among others which every person wears to portray the mood and nature of the new year’s festivities.

The materials used in making the Chinese masks are different from the Korean Hahoe masks. They are made up of a wide range of materials such as metal and stones, paper, clothes, grass and leather. While the Korean Hahoe mask is made from wood alder, others are either paper mache made or made from gourds and rice straws. Both these masks from Korea and China are painted in different colors and shaped into different designs ([6]The magazine of Santa Clarita 2008). Another difference among the Chinese masks and the Hahoe masks are the kind of mood expression shown by the masks.

The Chinese new year masks are predominantly made in such a way which portray a gay and happy mood to fit the opening of a new year while the Hahoe masks are only made to suit the different moods such as horror, happiness, laughter and sadness among others. The Korean masks also give a symbolization of various stereotyped characteristics of individual in the society who is satirically portrayed in the plays ([7]The Nature and Origin of Masked Dance Drama, 2006). Some of the news year’s masks may also show images of human and animal characteristics such as the dragon and the lions. The most commonly used color of the Chinese masks is g the color red because it is believed to bring forth prosperity and will commonly be used in many other things in the celebration of the New Year. Like the opera masks of China the Hahoe masks portray the different features and characteristic of the role played by the actor in a play ([8]Kim, 1998).

The New Year festivities of China are marked by the acknowledgement of the good, evil, spiritual beings and the presence of deities as well as animal ancestors. These are the aspects which are depicted in the New Year’s beings. Therefore they do not show the characteristics and identity is playing in a role play like the case of Hahoe masks but instead act as the actual representation of the Chinese believes and cultures. The masks depict the powers and characteristics which are highly valued during the dances and ceremonies taking place in the Chinese New-Year ([9]Masks and more masks, 2001).

Another point of difference between the Hahoe masks and the Chinese masks is the dragon image presents in new years masks of the Chinese. The dragon is a cultural element of the Chinese culture symbolizing fortune and good luck mainly in terms of the new years harvesting and farming because the dragon is believed to be the bringer of rain. The dragon and the New Year cerebration which show the beginning of a new season of planting and harvesting in China are aspects which intertwine. The masks with images of the dragon are used in modern days not only as a sign of agricultural prosperity but also other prosperities in business and technology ([10]Kwintessential 2001).

Therefore, the dragon masks are of great importance to the Chinese people. The dragon masks in china are made in vivid colors like bright red, gold or blue and may have feathers and fur. These colors have a meaning they convey which an aspect is not found in the Hahoe masks. Gold and silver color represent the ghosts, spirits and demons, cruelty is represented by the color yellow and blue is the color of valor and vigor. Green color shows chivalry and justice. The themes of colors have been used over generations and have been refined with the ages to show the Chinese history and, culture and art ([11]Masks and more masks 2001).

The aspect of mockery is found in the Korean mask which is an aspect which started during the Koryo period when the political power was considerably held by the Buddhist clergy. They were corrupt and high power monks engaged in bribe collection and feasting characterized the love of songs, women and wine. The lust and corruptness by the monk therefore become and element of mockery in the talcum seen by the common people ([12]Kim, 1998, pp 34).

Choegwari is common player in many plays as the star. He shows drinking, feasting and revelation of wealth in a boastful manner. He is fat with a full chin to show his gluttony for food and he becomes an image of aristocrats who flirts with concubines and takes her with him. In another scene choegwania is seen coming out from a lady’s skirt. All theses are the mockeries of the monks and their evil behaviors which are being criticized in plays.

The Chinese like the Hahoe masks have colors which symbolize various themes. The red color of the Korean mask however shows demonic aspects. Choegwari is especially the one represented with such a color. White masks are used to represent young women. Black masks signify the elderly people and red masks for the middle –aged. For example Nojang who is a wayward monk like Choegwari is shown wearing black mask because he is considered to be older than choegwari.

Masks in casting are accompanied by other costumes to give a theme or represent the true characteristics of an individual. For example an actor can wear flowing white sleeves to help him or her express the right movement which accompanies a fixed jaw mask. In Korea the wearing of such long sleeves and other formal attires reveal the satirical details in a folk performance styles or in court dances in talcum. The Chinese opera masks and the Hahoe masks are totems which were created in the past centuries but the opera marks have become part of facial paintings. The depiction of such masks in the Chinese culture trace back to the song dynasty as revered in the discoveries of tomb murals. These entire masks from China and Korea have evolved and improved due to the skills of the crafters and painters as well as the modern tools used in making the masks vary in colors, design, and pattern

Reference

Mask Museum (2008) What is masks Hahoe. Retrieved from

http://www.maskmuseum.com/

On April 12, 2011

Korean cultural Services NY, (2008) Mask and Dance. retrieved from

http://www.koreanculture.org/

On April 12, 2011

The magazine of Santa Clarita (2008) Korean Mask Dance Drama: Talchum. Retrieved

http://www.santaclaritamagazine.com/

On April 12, 2011

The Nature and Origin of Masked Dance Drama (2006) Hangukgwan. retrieved 2008

http://pr.korean.net/eng/koview/koview_08.jsp

On April 12, 2011

Kim, U (1998) The aesthetics of Talchum. Seoul: Hyunamsa,

Zhang, T (2007) Nuoxi: mysterious Chinese Opera and Its Masks P 49,

Masks and more masks (2001) The Chinese Dragon Mask In The Past And The Present

http://www.mask-and-more-masks.com/chinese-dragon-mask.html

On April 12, 2011

Kwintessential (2001) Chinese Dragon Masks

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/articles/article/China/Chinese-Dragon-Masks/1735

On April 12, 2011

[1] Mask Museum (2008) What is masks Hahoe. Retrieved from

http://www.maskmuseum.com/

On April 12, 2011

[2] Mask Museum (2008) What is masks Hahoe. Retrieved from

http://www.maskmuseum.com/

On April 12, 2011

[3] Korean cultural Services NY, (2008) Mask and Dance. retrieved from

http://www.koreanculture.org/

On April 12, 2011

[4] Zhang, T (2007) Nuoxi: mysterious Chinese Opera and Its Masks P 49,

[5] The magazine of Santa Clarita (2008) Korean Mask Dance Drama: Talchum. Retrieved

http://www.santaclaritamagazine.com/

On April 12, 2011

[6] The magazine of Santa Clarita (2008) Korean Mask Dance Drama: Talchum. Retrieved

http://www.santaclaritamagazine.com/

On April 12, 2011

[7] The Nature and Origin of Masked Dance Drama (2006) Hangukgwan. retrieved 2008

http://pr.korean.net/eng/koview/koview_08.jsp

On April 12, 2011

[8] Kim, U (1998) The aesthetics of Talchum. Seoul: Hyunamsa

[9] Masks and more masks (2001) The Chinese Dragon Mask In The Past And The Present

http://www.mask-and-more-masks.com/chinese-dragon-mask.html

On April 12, 2011

[10] Kwintessential (2001) Chinese Dragon Masks

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/articles/article/China/Chinese-Dragon-Masks/1735

On April 12, 2011

[11] Masks and more masks (2001) The Chinese Dragon Mask In The Past And The Present

http://www.mask-and-more-masks.com/chinese-dragon-mask.html

On April 12, 2011

[12] Kim, U (1998) The aesthetics of Talchum. Seoul: Hyunamsa

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