Adventures of an American Seoul-Sister

Adventures and Observations of an American Seoul-Sister

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Andong Mask Festival

Last month, I boarded a train to Andong to see their annual mask festival.  Mask dances are a centuries-old tradition in Korea, so I was in for a real treat.  The train carried me east-bound through the Korean countryside, past small villages, rice fields, and forested hills--the standard Korean terrain. 

Once in Andong, it was easy to find the festival grounds.  The were just a short walk from the station.  I cruised through the fair quickly.  It had the usual fried food booths and trinket stands.  At one end of the grounds, there was a stadium hosting mask dance performances. 

I skipped all this and hopped on the bus for the nearby folk village of Hahoe.  The 40-minute bus ride was worth it!  Hahoe was incredible!  The village is ancient.  Being in Hahoe was like having traveled through time.  Once populated with wealthy and prominent muck-itty-mucks of old Korea, it now stands a as a monumental treasure of Korea's past and still houses those that hold true to their traditional Korean lifestyle (with the addition of one or two satellite dishes and few motor-scooters).  My description of the village cannot do it justice, so I've included a number of pictures here. 

The village is situated on a river.  Beside the river, a small stage hosted traditional mask dances throughout the day.  Each dance was accompanied by drumming and other percussion, and each dance told a tale.  It seemed to me that most of the tales were eerie ghost tales.  Different masks were used to tell different stories.  Some masks were made with wood and some with straw.  Watching the dances was like seeing spirits from another world.  I could tell that these dances were an ancient expression on Korea's people--older, probably, than the village I stood in.  Most of the dances were performed by men.  Occasionally, a woman would join the dance depending on the tale being portrayed.  Towards the end, there was a short children's performance.

Across the river, a beautiful, large house stood alone.  It was only accessible by a crowded ferry.  By "ferry" I mean many styrofoam boxes strapped together to form a hope-it-can-float structure.  It floated despite its obviously awkward maneuverability.  I must go back some day to see this mystery house (just visible in the final picture) and to enjoy Hahoe again.  It's been one of my favorite destinations so far for its sheer and ancient beauty and its ability to transcend time.


  1. That looks amazing! I'm so sad I missed it. I love all the photos.

  2. this is the real deal

  3. REALLY beautiful, wish i got to see it with you