Pongsan mask dance, one of the folk dances in Korea, is famous in Pongsan area of North Hwanghae Province.
The mask dance has its origin in music and dance played from the closing years of Koryo dynasty (918-1392) and largely in the Haeso (Hwanghae Province) area.
A satirical dance representing the moral corruption and inefficiency of the feudal ruling class, the mask dance composed of twelve scenes is widely known.
More than 30 persons in various face masks and costumes danced in the evening, lighting several bonfires.
First four scenes of the dance showed corrupt monks, and net six scenes satirized moral decay and meanness of the monks and feudal aristocrats. The last two scenes portrayed people of the lower classes suffering misfortunes and trials owing to the feudal ruling class.
Dance movements and witty talks in the mask dance were multifarious and characteristic, and the movements of dancers waving long sleeves of their costumes in keeping with the rhythm peculiar to the Korean folk songs were so lively and animated that they excited the audience.
The masks of the dancers represented persons of various social standings and personalities, including sadang (a member of itinerary song-and-dance troupe), ryangban (nobleman), Somu and Chwibari, as well as lion and other animals. They were made of paper in method and shape unique in Pongsan. Clay models were made first and several layers of paper were pasted on them. Then clay models were taken from the dried paper on which faces of characters were painted. The masks used once were thrown into bonfires and new ones made the following year.
Costumes of the dancers looked very dazzling: they, clad in white, wore additional sleeveless jackets and overcoats in red, blue and indigo.
They danced to the accompaniment of folk band composed of Korean musical instruments such as pipe, jotdae (flute), haegum (four-stringed instrument), janggo (hourglass-shaped drum) and drum. The band played music mainly for exorcism ballad and chant.
The Pongsan mask dance was played in leisure seasons for farmers and festive days.
Owing to vicious schemes of the Japanese imperialists during their military occupation of Korea to obliterate Korean national culture, the Pongsan mask dance was on the verge of extinction. Only after Korea was liberated on August 15, Juche 34 (1945) did the folk dance be restored thanks to the state measure to unearth cultural heritage and develop them in keeping with aesthetic taste of the times.
The folk dance that was mainly played outside was staged in theater and adapted for various presentations.
Several versions of Pongsan mask dance are played in different areas of North Hwanghae Province, including Pongsan County and Sariwon City.
The mask dance is valued highly as precious cultural heritage of the nation.