The HAHOE MAKS
The Hahoe masks are a precious cultural inheritance. Among the numerous types of masks in Korea, the Hahoe masks are the only ones designates as national treasures . They are also appraised as worldwide masterpieces of mask art. It is said that the Hahoe masks were originally comprised of 12 masks, of which only nine remain.
The Hahoe masks portray human face excepting for the two Chuji(lion) masks. On the basis of physiognomy, their countenances express the social position, occupation and economic status.
The Hahoe masks do not have the static look of photos but portray scowling, laughing, or calm features. Each mask has hysiognomical features and also represents well the characteristics of the social position in Korean feudal society.
They are designed to display dynamic features during the play. The Hahoe masks must have seemed mysterious to villagers during their hundreds of years of use. Villagers believed the Hahoe masks were spiritual. Furthermore, in those days, they did not treat them carelessly, as they feared they would be struck by an arrowhead if they did so. Actors were said to offer a sacrifice before the chest housing the masks whenever the masks were removed or returned to storage. It is still reported that in the "Mask Play" a mask is so spiritual that it laughs by itself after a performer wearing it laughs and get angry after the performer gets angry. Those beliefs are derived from the fact that the Hahoe masks are designed so that when the performer pulls back his/her head, a string from the upper lip to lower jaw of the mask opens the mask into a broad smile. When the performer lowers his/her head, then the mouth of the mask shuts portraying an angry look. Each Hahoe mask needs to be analyzed and understood individually in terms of physiognomy, dynamic description, and social position characteristics.
Wooden masks used in Hahoe Pyolshin-Gut T'al-nori (Hahoe Mask Dance Drama) are made of the alder tree. They were first made in the middle period of the Korea dynasty (c.12 C) by Huh doryong. There were originally fourteen of these treasured Masks. Three of these (Chongak [Bridegroom], Byulchae and Ttuckdari-t'al) were lost. Eleven (Imae, Ch'oraengi, Kakshi, Chuji, Paekchong, Halmi, Chung, Yangban, Sonbi and Pune,) have been designated as National Treasure (No. 121). The distinctive characteristics of the Hahoe masks are of formative beauty. Fixed features of the Masks convey the expressions of joyful and pleasant feelings, and of the angry and grievous emotion. Thus, they are recognized as prominent masterpieces throughout the world. Especially the Masks of Yangban, Sonbi, Chung, and Paekchong. They are constructed naturally. The mouths will open and close. The movements of the chins in drama conversation expose the feelings of the characters very well. It is historically appreciated that Kakshi, Pune, and Halmi Masks do not have nostrils. Their mouths are small and reveal the social status and nature of the day.