Korean Masked Dance
- Talchum | North
Korean Travel Guide

Korean Masked Dance - Talchum

Masked Dance History
Spirits in Talchum

The Korean masked dance is often known as Talchum. The term Talchum is actually region-specific and refers to the traditional Korean dance which originated in Hwanghae Province (today North and South Hwanghae in North Korea).

The terms refer to a type of dance-performance in which performers wear masks and perform as various characters including people, animals or spirits.

These dances often focus on real-world issues, which are surprisingly relevant today, including conflict between a man’s wife and his secret lover and generally ridiculing the wealthy upper class.

Masked Dance History

Originally derived from shamanic rituals, the dances emerged in different places throughout Korea in small village communities.

During the Koryo dynasty, the dances were formalised and often performed during royal banquets. The ‘Office of masked-dance drama supervised these official dances’. The mask office was later to be abolished under the rule of the Choson dynasty.

The term Talchum now covers the entire art-form, although initially the term Yayu was used for dances on the southern coast while in Kyonggi Province, the dance was known as Sandae Noli.

Spirits in Talchum

An essential aspect of Talchum is the spiritual, shamanic origins of the performance. For this reason, there are many spirits depicted.


Described as small-headed birds, or perhaps lion-like beings. These spirits jump around in couples in an act that symbolises scaring away evil spirits or fertility.


These spirits were likely developed to appeal to the lower-class audience. Their goal is to eat 100 Yangban (traditional ruling class). Once a Yongno has eaten it’s 100 Yangban it can enter heaven.


Rather simple; the Bibi have human bodies, a monster’s head and say ‘bibi’.


Known as fat, seaweed-covered, instrument-playing water spirits; The Jangjamari are associated with fertility. Their appearance can differ depending on the location and time of year.

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