Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sikhye 식혜

Sikhye (also spelled shikhye or shikeh; also occasionally termed dansul or gamju) is atraditional sweet Korean rice beverage, usually served as a dessert . In addition to itsliquid ingredients, sikhye also contains grains of cooked rice, and in some cases pine nuts.


Sikhye is made by pouring malt water onto cooked rice. The malt water steeps in the rice at typically 150 degrees Fahrenheit until grains of rice appear on the surface. The liquid is then carefully poured out, leaving the rougher parts, and boiled with sugar. In South Korea and in Korean grocery stores wherever Korean communities are found, sikhye is readily available in cans or plastic bottles. One of the largest South Korean producers of sikhye is the Vilac company of Busan. Atypical of most canned beverages, each can has a residue of cooked rice at the bottom. Homemade sikhye is often served after a meal in a Korean restaurant.





Regional Variations

There are several regional variations of sikhye. These include Andong sikhye and yeonyeop sikhye or yeonyeopju, a variety of sikhye made in Gangwon province. Andong sikhye differs in that it also includes radishes, carrots, and powdered red pepper. Also, it is fermented for several days as opposed to being boiled.It is important to note that the crunchy texture of the radish is kept despite the longer fermentation process, since a soft texture would indicate an inferior product. Whereas the sweet canned or restaurant sikhye is enjoyed as a dessert beverage, Andong sikhye is appreciated as a digestive aid, containing lactobacillus.



yeonyeop sikhye

yeonyeop sikhye

Andong sikhye

Andong sikhye


Sikhye has lots of effects. The first well-known effect is accelating function of digesion. Sikhye is one of the fermented foodswhich can help a viscus’s movement and this working accelates a digesion. Moreover,Sikhye contains abundant fibers more than other fiber beverages or foods. These ferment, especially fibers, work in body to accelate a digestion as the main element. Furthermore, these fibers contained abundantly in Sikhye are helpful for chronic constipation and prevention of colorectal cancer.

According to Sasang typology(사상의학;四象醫學) in Oriental culture, Sikhye helps people who have cold constitution to be warmer and also helps those who have too warm constitution to be less warm. It is very helpful for relieving hangover. In addition, by drinking Sikhye, people can supplement sugar and “electrolyte” more efficiently.

Above these many effects, Sikhye is good for prevention of  “arteriosclerosis” and relieveing “mammalgia”

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Sikhye 식혜


Talchum 탈춤

The Nature and Origin of Masked Dance Drama

The masked dance drama that was popular during the Joseon period (1392-1910) undoubtedly represents the pinnacle of Korean vernacular culture. As its Korean name, talchum, implies, it is a form of play or dance (chum) performed while wearing masks (tal). It is also a way of releasing pent-up frustrations while concealing one’s identity behind a mask. By dressing up as a nobleman or shaman, a wife or concubine, or a servant, the common people would find fun in the tense situations of real life. As a result, there was no need for professional actors like those of China or Japan. Masked dance dramas are also quite different from the masked plays of other countries, which make a clear distinction between the stage and the auditorium. They are open-air events in which performers and spectators mingle freely together.

Thus, masked dance dramas developed as an entertainment ex-pressing the thoughts of the general populace. With characters like Malddugi the lowly servant, ruthlessly satirizing the falsehood and hypocrisy of his masters with bold gestures and broad humor, or the familiar debauched monk engaging in banter with women, these plays are rife with the critical consciousness of the common people. Through them, the commoners could amply express their resentment of the oppression they suffered.

Masked dance dramas enjoyed a widespread revival in connection with the people’s democratic movement that spread through Korean university campuses in the 1980s, but today it has been largely popularized as a form of folk entertainment enjoyed by people from all walks of life. Instructional programs are available in which anyone can try making the masks or learning to perform the dramas. The goal of these programs is not so much to train specialists in masked dance dramas, as to give ordinary people a taste of Korean tradition.

It is now easy to find live masked productions places in like Seoul Nori Madang. The long tradition of masked productions was once almost lost, but today it holds a firm position as a popular art of universal appeal.

Masked Dance Dramas and Their Masks

Masked dance dramas have been transmitted from all parts of the country. Major regional varieties include the communal shaman rite in Andong’s Hahoe Byeolsingut Tallori ; Gangneung Gwanno Gamyeongeuk (Government Servants Masked Dance Drama) the Songpa and Yangju areas’ Byeolsandae Nori of Seoul and Gyeonggi lineage performed by itinerant performing troupes; the west coast masked dance dramas from Bongsan, Gangnyeong, and Eunyul of Hwanghae lineage; and the Yayu (Field Masked Dance Drama) and Ogwangdae (Five Clowns Masked Dance Drama) performed in the regions to the east and west of the Nakdong River.

The Hahoe Byeolsandae Nori was performed at the Hahoe Village’s tutelary shrine after the tutelary deity had descended during the spiritual invocation performed by the villagers at the first full moon of the lunar year. From this we can infer that the “masked play” was not separate from the communal shaman rites but was itself one of the rites performed to bring prosperity and peace to the village.

Yayu and Ogwangdae masked productions are thought to have been less connected with shaman practice than with the repertoire of itinerant performing troupes called Daegwang-daepae that roved along the Nakdong River. And it is certainly true that they smack less of religion than of pure entertainment. But considering the style of the masks and dances and the fact that they were used mainly at village festivals, it appears that these plays too had more of a local character than a commercial one.

In the Seoul region, the Songpa Sandae Nori and Yangju Byeolsandae Nori appear to have been based on the Bonsandae Nori performed by itinerant troupes of professional entertainers. Yangju Byeolsandae Nori is said to derive from Ddakddagipae or Sandae Nori stage plays, and Songpa Sandae Nori from Gupabal Bonsandae Nori.

On the whole, the west coast masked dance dramas from Hwanghae Province (now in North Korea) differs little in content from the Sandae Nori. All the characters and scenes are similar: the Dance of the High Priest, the Eight Dark-faced Monks, the Reverend Priest, the Old and the Young, the Nobleman, and Grandma Miyal. The lively dance style of west coast masked dance dramas exploits the long sleeves of the Buddhist monk’s robe, which are alternately grasped and released, and the movements are broad and vigorous.

Characteristics of Korean Masks

The masks for Hahoe Byeolsingut Tallori are carved from alder wood that has been thoroughly dried in the shade. The distinguishing feature of these Hahoe masks is that the chin is separate from the rest of the face. However, the face and chin are not carved from separate pieces; rather, the face is made as a whole, and only then is the chin separated and attached with a string so that it can move freely up and down.

The facial expression of a Hahoe mask often seems to change with the movement and the viewing angle. The Nobleman mask is made with exaggerated eyebrows and cheek bones which appear to change their expression as the mask moves up or down, while the mask of the servant Choraengi has a mouth that changes from a smile to a frown as it is moved from side to side.

The masks of the Ogwangdae and Yayu plays are rather different from those of Sandae Nori or west coast masked dance dramas, which imitate the human features in a relatively realistic way. Their lines are broad, simple, and bold, with a strong effect of caricature. For instance, the masks of Tongyeong Ogwangdae have a pronounced symbolic and satirical quality, including masks for a mystic Monster, a Leper, a Red and White face, a Dark face, a Bent-nosed Man, a Guest, and the servant Malddugi. The Noblemen are all shown with deformed features, while the Red and White mask is painted half red and half white to symbolize the idea that the wearer has two fathers, Mr. Red and Mr. White. The Dark-faced mask indicates that the character was born of an adulterous mother. The Malddugi mask in the Ogwangdae and Yayu plays is exceptionally large, and its nose is shaped like a penis. The fact that the largest mask is given to this character, whose role is to criticize the aristocracy, suggests how deeply the common people must have resented the ruling class.

The masks of west coast are unusual in that they are made mainly of paper. This gives them a special quality in both color and shape.

Hahoe Masks : The 9 character types represented are the Bride, Nobleman, Female Entertainer, Monk, Servant, Scholar, Meddler, Butcher, and Grandma. Originally there were three more, the Bachelor, Ddeokdari, and Byeolchae, but these were lost during the Japanese colonial period. Together with the 2 Juji bird masks and 2 kinds of Byeongsan masks, the 9 Hahoe masks are designated National Treasure No. 121.


Bongsan Masks : The aristocratic characters such as the Lord, the Master, and the Son of the Head Family, are invariably shown with gaping or crooked mouths. They are made to seem abnormal in their appearance as well as their speech and behavior.





Suyeong Yayu Malddugi Mask : Malddugi is the servant who appears in many forms of masked dance drama to satirize the pretenses of the nobility.






Cheoyong Mask : Originating in the Legend of Cheoyong, this mask originally had the function of chasing away the demon of smallpox. On it were hung peony blossoms and the branch and fruit of a peach tree. The peony blossoms symbolized wealth and good fortune, while the peach branch stood for disease.






Yeongcheon General Mask : This mask of an army General is kept in the tutelary shrine in the Sinnyeong district of Yeongcheon County. Used as a sacred mask to signal the presence of the spirit, it is the focus of ceremonies performed by the shaman on the 1st and 15th day of each lunar month.




Foot Masks :This type of masked play is performed lying on one’s back behind a curtain while moving masks attached to the feet. It is said to have been mainly performed by itinerant male troupes of Anseong lineage.








Masks : These straw masks represent the twelve animals of the Oriental zodiac. The dance is performed with each actor wearing the mask of his own zodiac animal.






Tongyeong Ogwangdae Masks : These masks belong to the plays from the region of Tongyeong or Chungmu. The form of masked dance drama prevalent in the area to the west of the Nakdong River is known as Ogwangdae Masked Dance Drama. Tongyeong Ogwangdae Masked Dance Drama puts entertainment value first and comprises 5 scenes, centering respectively on the Leper, the Satirical Dance, the Minor Civil Servant, the Bride, and the Hunter.




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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Korean Dance, Talchum 탈춤


Buchaechum 부채춤

Buchaechum is a traditional form of Korean dance , usually performed by groups of female dancers. Many Koreans use this dance during many celebrations. They use fans painted with pink peony blossoms and display a show of dance. In the dance being performed, the dancers represent images using the fans e.g. flowers, butterflies and waves. They wear hanbok, the Korean traditional dress in bright colors. It appears to have developed under influence of both shamanic dance and traditional Joseon Dynasty court performance.

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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Buchaechum 부채춤, Korean Dance


Seol-nal (Lunar New Year) 설날

The Lunar New Year holiday, also known elsewhere as Chinese New year, is second in importance only to Chuseok (the Harvest Moon Festival). Every year, family members make a grand pilgrimage to their hometowns. During the 3-day period, Seoul is almost deserted a most people leave the city to return to their ancestral roots. Although many of the younger generation take advantage of the time off to go skiing or travel abroad, Korea’s roads, railways, and skies are full of homeward bound travelers. People line up for hours when the bus and train tickets go on sale, about 3 months prior to the holidays. For those masochistic enough to try driving, taking over 24 hours to drive from Seoul to Busan is not unheard of! (Normally, it takes 5-6 hours. However, the family bond runs deep in Korea culture, and it seems that people gladly make the journey.


Dongji 동지

Dongji falls on December 22nd in the solar calendar. It is the day with the shortest daytime hours and longest night hours. In traditional societies people used to call Dongji “little new years” and was considered a festive day that follows new years. Old proverbs such as “You must pass Dongji to grow one year older” or “You must eat adzuki bean porridge to grow one year older” are derived from this custom.

adzuki bean porridge 동지팥죽

adzuki bean porridge 동지팥죽

People used to make bird egg shaped balls with glutinous rice to add to their adzuki bean porridge. These balls were dipped with honey to add an extra taste and were used as seasonal foods used for offerings to ancestors. People also used to smear the porridge on their doors because they believed that adzuki bean porridge scarred away ghosts.


Chuseok 추석

Chuseok, also known as Hangawee, falls on the15th day of the 8th lunar month and is one of the four mainfestive holidays of Korea.In ancient society, people used to worship and hold festivals under the full moon. It is said that Chuseok is derived from the full moon, which was on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.


Bulcho and Sungmyo
Bulcho is the tradition of cutting the weeds around one’s ancestral graves during Chuseok. Paying a visit to one’s ancestral graves is considered as a duty towards one’s ancestors.

Bulcho 벌 초

Bulcho 벌 초

Chare (Memorial rites)
During the morning of Chuseok, families gather around the head family house where the household shrines are placed to pay respects to their ancestors. Their memorial rites are offered up to their great-great grandfather. The only thing different from the memorial rites held during new years and that held in Chuseok, is that during Chuseok people eat rice instead of rice cake soup.

Ganggangsulle is a traditional circle dance, where women gather at a specified place and go around in circles chanting “Gang-gang-sul-le.” If a woman with a strong voice stands in the middle chanting gang-gang-sul-le, the rest of the people in the circle follow.

Ganggangsulle 강강술래

Ganggangsulle 강강술래

Gama Fight
This game is played by two teams, each with a four wheeled sedan chair, that try to either snatch or destroy each others’ sedan chairs. Since long ago, winners of this game were believed to easily pass the civil service examination and are said to have celebrated their victory by going around the town singing.


Chilseok 칠석

Chilseok is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. Traditionally, this is the day when a special ceremony is held for the stars that symbolize the annual encounter of the Gyeonu and Jiknyeo planets placed on each end of the galaxy. According to myths, Gyeonu and Jiknyeo’s love for each other brought the anger of the King of Heaven and therefore met once a year the night before Chilseok across the galaxy. Crows and magpies are said to have gathered to form a bridge for the two lovers’ reunion, and this bridge was called the Ojakgyo.

Gyeonu and Jiknyeo

Gyeonu and Jiknyeo


Chilseok is a period where the heat starts to pass away and the monsoon season begins. The rain that falls during this period is called Chilseok water. As pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons start to flourish during this period, people used to offer a pumpkin fry to the Great Dipper, although this custom is not practiced these days.

Dietary Customs

During Chilseok, it is tradition to eat wheat-flour noodles and grilled wheat cake. Chilseok is known as the last period to have a chance of enjoying wheat based foods, since the cold winds expected after Chilseok ruin thegood scent of wheat. Therefore these dishes are a must for the dinner table.

wheat-flour noodles 밀국수

wheat-flour noodles 밀국수

grilled wheat cake 밀전병

grilled wheat cake 밀전병

grilled wheat cake 밀전병

grilled wheat cake 밀전병