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Andong celebrates mask dance with festival

Andong Hahoe Village About 700 big and small festivals are held in various places across Korea every year and it may not be easy to choose which one to attend.

But pay attention, as a festival is coming up that you shouldn’t miss.

Selected for years as one of the best festivals to attend by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Andong Mask Dance Festival is a must-see for locals as well as foreigners.

Andong, the home of one of the most famous traditional mask dances in Korea, is hosting the Andong Mask Dance Festival 2008 from Sept. 16 to Oct. 5.

Located in Gyeongsangbuk-do (North Gyeongsang Province), 268 kilometers southeast of Seoul, Andong is known for its protection and respect of folk traditions from its days as the hometown of the elite of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

The annual Andong Mask Dance Festival, first held in 1997, attracts more than 800,000 visitors every year and it is a favorite event for visiting dignitaries and foreign diplomats living in Korea.

The Andong mask dance was originally a ritual to exorcise evil spirits.

It developed over time to show the humor and charm of the Korean rural people while expressing their views of society and poking fun at the aristocrats.

This year, along with 16 local troupes, eight mask dance teams from seven nations, including China, Japan and Russia, will participate, providing a more diverse spectacle.

The highlight of the festival is the Hahoe Byeolsin Exorcism Mask Dance.

The Hahoe masks used for the dance were originally used for a mask dance drama deriving from a primitive religious rite to a local god, and the masks are the oldest type of wooden masks in Korea.

Folk tales say that they were made by a man whose last name was Huh during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

According to legends, Heo was an unmarried man who received a revelation from the gods to carve the masks.

The Hahoe Byeolsin Exorcism Mask DanceIt is said that if one dies without having seen the Hahoe Byeolsin Exorcism Mask Dance, even the king of the underworld will send one back to enjoy it at least once while alive.

In addition to the Hahoe dance, visitors can watch such Korean mask dances as the Eunyul Mask Dance, the Bukcheong Lion Mask Dance, the Bongsan Mask Dance, the Dongrae Yaryu, the Goseong Okwangdae and several others.

The Eunyul Mask Dance, from Eunyul, Hwanghae-do (province) in North Korea, is noted for its stylish masks and powerful movements.

The Bongsan Mask Dance is a nine-part performance that satirizes monks.

The Goseong Ogwangdae was originally performed on the first full moon of the year to drive out evil spirits and ward off misfortune. It is a graceful dance to slow music.

In addition to dance performances, there will be hands-on programs where children can make their own masks and then wear them to participate in street parades.

There will also be folk game contests and exhibitions that show masks from different countries.

The Bongsan Mask Dance
How to get there:

Trains leave Seoul for Andong from Cheongnyangni station.

The Mugunghwa train makes the trip in about five and a half hours.

A round-trip ticket costs about 26.000 won. From Andong Station, the festival venue is a 40-minute bus ride away.

Call 054-851-6398 for more information or visit (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, German).

By Han Aran Staff Writer

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