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Hahoe Pyolsin-kut mask dramaBookmark

Learning area: The Arts
Year level: Year 7, Year 8
Country: South Korea

This learning sequence examines the Korean Hahoe Pyolsin-kut mask drama. Students will gain insight into the purposes and function of this traditional form of folk drama as a means of political commentary. Students are provided with the opportunity to make masks and perform a Hahoe play and an original satirical play using the appropriate conventions.

Key inquiry questions

  • What are the purposes and functions of drama in societies, using the Hahoe mask drama as a context?
  • What are the dramatic components of a Hahoe mask drama?
  • How can the principles of the Hahoe mask drama be used to create and present a new dramatic work?

Hahoe masksExamples of Hahoe masks



Image: Julie Facine

Related resources

Activity 1: Korea and the Hahoe mask drama

In this activity, you will:

  • learn about the people of Korea
  • examine the purposes and functions of drama in societies such as ancient Korea
  • use the Hahoe mask drama as a context.

Key inquiry question: What are the purposes and functions of drama in societies, using the Hahoe mask drama as a context?

About South Korea and mask drama

  1. Explore the ‪‪‪‬‬‬ website and write down five interesting facts about the Republic of Korea (South Korea) that you didn't know.
  2. Pair and share these with the person next to you. Select one fact per pair and create a collaborative list as a class. Use this to write a descriptive paragraph about South Korea.  
  3. On the ‪‪‪‬‬Go Korea! Then and now page, select the photograph in the centre of the top row, 'Chuseok: honouring ancestors'. Once you have enlarged the photograph, roll over the image to view information tabs. Discuss, as a class, the importance of family and tradition in South Korea.
  4. Investigate the meanings of the terms satire and caricature. Write definitions for each.
  5. Read the background notes on the Hahoe Pyolsin-kut mask drama and answer the following:
    • Explain how the background information supports the importance of tradition and family.
    • Explain how satire and caricature are used in the Hahoe mask drama.
    • Discuss why this form of drama evolved in a village.
    • Give reasons why you think this type of play was allowed by the officials.
    • Suggest reasons why actors sometimes wear masks in their work.
  6. Research ‪‪‬‬Italy's Commedia dell'arte and compare and contrast the two dramatic art forms using a ‪‪‪‬‬‬Venn diagram
  7. Discuss your findings and why these forms of drama were relevant to the peoples of Italy and the Korean peninsula. Finish your discussion by identifying whether similar plays exist today.


Image: Adam Nicholson

Activity 2: Hahoe masks

In this activity, you will:

  • examine the dramatic and visual elements of the Hahoe mask drama
  • identify specific themes of corruption in religion or nobility, love triangles and social class struggles
  • conduct a reading.

Key inquiry question: What are the dramatic components of a Hahoe mask drama?

  1. Look at the image of Hahoe masks, read the descriptions and answer the following questions:

    Hahoe_masksExamples of Hahoe masks

    • What are the common features of the masks?
    • Why do you think the masks have been designed this way?
    • Describe the dramatic features of the mask drama performance and explain how they support the use of masks.
  2. Read through the script of a Hahoe play in Activity 3 and write a paragraph describing the themes of the play and how humour is used to highlight political issues.
  3. Discuss your summary with the rest of the class and what it can tell us about Korean society at that time.
  4. Choose members of the class to play each character and conduct a reading of the play. If reading, remember to use your voice to emphasise the comedic (humorous) elements of the script.
  5. Perform the play as directed by the script. Think about how each character moves and uses their voice and hands.
  6. You may wish to add the musicians playing small drums and gongs. They will herald the beginning and end of each act.
  7. Once the performance has finished, discuss as actors and spectators the impact of the play and how it has increased your knowledge and understanding of Korea's past.


Image: Julie Facine

Activity 3: Create a satirical performance

In this activity, you will:

  • learn about the principles of the Hahoe mask drama
  • use these principles to create and present a new dramatic work that satirises a recent topical event.

Key inquiry question: How can the principles of the Hahoe mask drama be used to create and present a new dramatic work?

​Preparation for the performance

  1. Explore a range of current online Australian political cartoons where prominent individuals are caricatured and satirised.
  2. Examine the key features of the characters. Discuss, as a class, how they are portrayed and why they are drawn this way. Compare them to the Hahoe masks and explain the similarities.
  3. Break into four groups to discuss a situation that has occurred where there is an authority figure who can be caricatured. This should be done in a respectful way.
  4. Develop a summary of the event and the characters.
  5. Prior to writing a play about this event, discuss the key features that will be emphasised when making masks for each character.
  6. Designate roles for each member of the group. These may include:
    • writing the play
    • creating a mask
    • playing a character
    • directing the play
    • organising the stage set.
  7. If you are making a mask, use the mask making instructions below. 
  8. Rehearse and perform the plays.
  9. Discuss as a class how effective the plays were in highlighting an event in a humorous way.

Balloon mould mask-making

You may wish to make a mask based on one of the characters in Activity 2. Follow these simple instructions:

  1. Blow up a balloon and hang it from a string.
  2. Build up six layers of papier mâché on the front surface of the balloon. As the layers develop, a pear-shaped mask forms.
  3. Cut the balloon down and build up the mask's features using rolls of glued paper and papier mâché squares.
  4. Pop the balloon and trim the base of the mask. Sandpaper the rough edges and apply a coat of white interior paint. Paint the surface according to the character you wish to create. Add hair and other adornments if necessary.

The play

Act I

(Kakshi, the bride, enters dressed in a long red skirt and a green cropped top, standing on somebody's shoulders. To the accompaniment of drums, she dances around with a long white scarf draped around her shoulders. This is supposed to encourage the audience to donate to the actors.)

Act II

(Two Chuji, fighting lions, enter. The lion is a supreme creature in Buddhism. This scene is essential to the mask drama in order to purify and exorcise the evil spirits from the performance. The lions fight each other and both fall down. Choraengi, a scatterbrained young boy, enters and chases them away.)


(Paekchong, the butcher, enters with a large straw bag slung over his shoulder. He dances around to the music and is full of good humour. A big brown ox dances in and they dance together. Paekchong then kills the ox. He hacks away at the ox and then stands up.)

(Paekchong holds up a red object high in the air.)

Paekchong: Who wants to buy an ox heart? Look! It's still warm. Eat it like this, and weaklings will become strong, and dizziness will disappear. Nobody wants it? Huh, these people, fancy not knowing the value of a fresh ox heart.

Act IV

(Halmi, a poor granny, enters, bent over her broom. She is shabbily dressed and her hair is covered with a scarf. She sweeps for a while and then stands upright, stretching her doubled-over back.)

Halmi: Oh, my back! It's killing me. Listen, folks, have you ever seen a more wretched creature than me? Widowed at 15, only three days after the wedding. Poor little me. I have to fend for myself. Begging for food, begging for work. Always hungry, often cold! Oh, I don't know. I'll stop working and dance a bit.

(She dances around, then she takes out a bowl and goes around the audience begging for money. When no one puts anything into it, she gives them a nasty look and exits in a huff.)

Act V

(Pune, a young woman of easy virtue, enters. She is dressed in a bright blue skirt and a canary yellow top. Her mask is heavily made up to look like a bride with thick white powder, pink circles on the cheeks and one in the centre of the forehead, and red leaves. She looks around and, making sure that no one is nearby, squats down behind a shrub and relieves herself. At that moment, Chung, the Buddhist monk, appears and gives her a fright. She quickly smooths down her skirt.)

Chung: Hello, pretty maid. I may be a monk, but I am also a man. I am attracted to you. Come dance with me.

(Pune feigns resistance coquettishly. They dance together for a while, and, carrying her over his shoulder, the monk disappears behind off into the wings. Choraengi, the rash meddler, enters and points to where the couple have left.)

Choraengi: Oh, my God! Did you see that? Whatever next? A Buddhist monk and a woman of easy virtue! Well I never!

(Enter Imae, the village fool, smiling broadly.)

Choraengi: Hey, village fool! Did you see the monk and Pune disappearing together? Have you ever heard of such a thing?

(Imae just grins stupidly.)

Choraengi: Ah well, no matter. It's a funny world. Come dance with me.

(The two of them dance and exit.)

Act VI

(Yangban, the aristocrat, and Sonbi, the scholar, are sitting down, a long way from each other. They clear their throats unnecessarily, stroking their long beards, each trying to look more dignified than the other. Choraengi runs in, all excited.)

Choraengi: Oh, my masters. I have just seen something that is really outrageous. Absolutely scandalous! Can you imagine, masters?

Yangban: What is the fellow carrying on about?

Sonbi: Come to the point at once.

Choraengi: Pune and the Buddhist monk, my lords, I saw him carry her off into the bushes with my own two eyes. Have you ever heard of such a disgraceful thing?

Yangban: Pune and the Buddhist monk of all people. What is the world coming to? However, not to worry. Just bring Pune here.

Sonbi: That's a good idea. Boy, go fetch her.

(Choraengi exits. After a little he re-enters with a coy Pune.)

Yangban: Is that you Pune? Come girl. Come and massage my back.

(Pune goes to Yangban and starts massaging his shoulders.)

Yangban: Choraengi, Pune here well knows, there is no family around here to match mine.

Sonbi: That may be true, sir, but I have mastered the Chinese classics. Come Pune massage my arms. There's a good girl.

(Pune flits between the two men, massaging their arms and shoulders seductively.)

Choraengi: Sonbi, I have mastered more of the Chinese classics than you have.

(Yangban looks disgusted.)

Yangban: Really, I have heard it all. How could a peasant like you know the Chinese classics?

Sonbi: Whatever next?

Yangban: Sonbi, it is no use arguing in front of these Philistines.

Sonbi: I agree with you, sir. There is no point.

Yangban: Let's dance together instead.

(They dance around, Halmi appears and tries to join in. Sonbi looks at her face and pushes her away. Yangban frowns at her and does the same. Pune dances with Yangban and Sonbi, Halmi joins Choraengi and dances with him.)


(The scene is the wedding ceremony and the first night. Kakshi and the groom, played by Sonbi, enter. They face one another with a table in between them. Kakshi makes a ceremonial bow all the way to the floor twice and the groom does it once. After the ceremony, the couple lie down on a straw mat together and the lights dim.)


Image: Adam Nicholson

Activity 4: Reflection

To conclude this learning sequence, you will reflect on the Hahoe mask drama and use a thinking routine to consider how effective mask drama and satire are for making social and political comment both in the past and in today's world.

Answer these questions and then discuss your reflections as a group:

  • What did you see and hear when you watched the Hahoe mask drama performance?
  • What do you think about the performance and what it aims to do?
  • What does it make you think about the effectiveness of using mask dramas to make social and political comment both in the past and in the world we live in today?

This learning sequence provides teachers with the opportunity to discuss with students the concept of traditional or folk drama and its relevance in today's world.

Activity 1: Korea and the Hahoe Pyolsin-kut mask drama

There are a number of key points that should be shared with students about this topic. Mask dance dramas are performed all over Korea and the themes are similar. The plays are derived from shamanic religious rites to ward off evil spirits and to provide an abundant harvest. They are written as short acts or vignettes and are satirical, using humour to allow the common people to release frustrations about the upper class.

Hahoe Pyolsin-kut mask drama

The Hahoe mask drama, or Hahoe Pyolshin-Gut T'al-NORI, is performed in a South Korean village called Andong. Andong is considered the cradle of Korean traditional culture from the historical times of the Silla, Koryo and Choson kingdoms.

The South Korean government recognises Hahoe Village in Andong as a unique historical area with architecture and customs that must be preserved. The area is given the title Important Intangible Cultural Properties No. 69 and the play, Important Folklore Material Number 122.

The village is the home of Songju, a shamanic god responsible for protecting one's house, and the home of Confucian culture, including Tosan Sowon, the Confucian Academy that has published more literary works than any other place in Korea.

The first plays were performed by merchants in Andong Hahoe Village around the mid-12th century and were performed to bring about happiness and a good harvest for the village. In an agricultural society, a good harvest was considered to be the key factor of the village's survival and the villagers performed a sacrificial rite to pray to the heavens for an everlasting and bountiful harvest.

Refer to further notes about the Hahoe Pyolsin-kut mask drama, contained within the text.

Activity 2: Hahoe Pyolsin-kut masks

The play's script has suggestive elements and it is recommended that teachers make sure it is suitable for their students. It is important to explain the context of the drama and the cultural background to the humour used.

If performed, students should be informed that all the characters in the mask drama move about in natural rhythm, walking and moving realistically, but use their voice to highlight the humour. Refer to notes about Hahoe masks, contained within the text, for information about the characters.

Activity 3: Create a satirical performance

It is important to remind students that they need to be sensitive when creating their characters and writing their plays.

The mask dance is made up of ten episodes exploring a satirical story of former noblemen.

The play covers each of these episodes and was written after the author witnessed a performance while on an Australia-Korea Foundation Fellowship.

If you wish to show a Hahoe mask drama, explore websites such as YouTubefor example, ‪‪‬‬‪Hahoe mask dance drama of Korea's most traditional folk plays.

Teachers should check each of the plays regarding their appropriateness prior to them being developed and performed.

Refer to the notes about a Hahoe play, contained within the text.

Activity 4: Reflection

It is important that students have the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the effectiveness of mask drama and satire for making political comment.

It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

The full resource can not be displayed on a mobile device.

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