On October 8th, I started this blog entry and for whatever reason haven’t gotten around to finishing it until today. Clearly I need to be more timely with my blog posts. I always sit down with the best intentions of pumping out an entry but then don’t actually finish it until waaaaaay later than I should. In all fairness, I have (or had for the first few days) a small excuse for posting late since I was sick around October 8th. Nothing serious but definitely blog-hampering.

Anyway, from September 24th (the day after Chuseok) to October 3, Andong, South Korea was celebrating its cultural heritage via the Mask Dance Festival. I learned about this festival before I came over here (see my December 9th entry) and of course had to go see it. Originally I planned to go on September 25th and 26th, but couldn’t because on the 25th I had to make up classes  that had been cancelled due to Chuseok. So October 2nd and 3rd were the last days I could go see it – visiting on a weekday were out of the question.

Originally I also planned to go with a reasonably sized group and stay at one of the traditional Korean style inns that are in the area, but the group didn’t pan out. Which meant that I’d be jjimjilbang-ing it. Or at least at 6am, when I went out to catch the bus to take me into Seoul to catch another bus to take me all the way to Andong, that’s what I had been planning but I ended up being so exhausted by the end of the day that I just caught the midnight bus back to Seoul and called it a weekend. Which is kind of cool when you think about how I basically made a day trip going to almost the other side of the country.

Anyway, spending the day in Andong was fun. The vibe was very different than Seoul, obviously. I ended up seeing a couple of mask performances (and one day when I figure out how to post my videos on this blog, I will put them up here) and visiting the Folk Village. At the Folk Village, there were several shops selling tourist souvenirs, including tha traditional Hahoe masks. Now, you can find the Hahoe masks all over Korea but I really wanted to get a handmade one. Maybe they’re all handmade, maybe they’re mass produced, it’s hard to tell when they’re hanging in a store, even at the Folk Village. But then, just as it was starting to rain and I was leaving the Folk Village, I noticed a little shop where two women were working with woodworking equipment and selling the masks they were making. Yay! So I bought one of the masks at at pretty good price – hand-made (although I didn’t see her making my particular mask, unfortunately) and cheaper than I’ve seen elsewhere. And it has its own unique design, within the cultural norm for its character, and imperfections.

The mask I bought was the  양반 탈 (yangban t’al) or Aristocrat mask, which is not only my favorite of the 9 archtype masks but it seems everyone else’s as well. The Aristocrat mask is the one you see on all the advertisements and the one that is most on sale. Each of the masks represents a different character, with their own personality and dancing style, and it seems the Aristocrat’s is the best – or at least only one that’s not clearly negative.

I got this from the Hahoe Mask Museum:

Yangban T’al is viewed as the masterpiece best representing the aesthetic value among Hahoe masks. Its expression is generally gentle, mixed with bombastic and leisurely expressions, just as goes the saying; “Yangban picks his teeth, even when he drinks water”. The separarte chin with a hanging string makes firm the mouth when drooping the head, and thus changes himself into an angry face. Dancing form: Yangban‘s swaggering steps.”

If a mask of gold hides all deformities, what does a mask of wood hide?

And for your enjoyment, here are some more photos:

A modern take on the Aristocrat

A modern take on the flirtatious woman.

Just in time for Halloween

Not a mask, but still picture-worthy

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