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 (No. 121; 2 Pyongsan masks included). 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 three lost masks, the Ch'onggak(bachelor), Ttoktari(servant), and pyolch'ae (low-grade government official) masks, are known only by their names.
  The unique features of the Hahoe masks have yet to be explained fully. Several initial studies to discern their meaning produced negligible results. In order to study them more systematically, the Hahoe masks were next analyzed physiognomically, according to the facial features. This physiognomical analysis was based on the Book of Changes, one of the Four Books and the  Three Classics, which were the fundamental books for education in Korean traditional society. This analysis proved to a reasonable method.
  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. However, it is not sufficient for the comprehension of the  Hahoe masks to analyze them physiognomically. Thus, the features of the Hahoe masks were analyzed in a total of three ways through physiognomy, dynamic description, and social position. 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.


1.Yangban(aristocrat) Mask

From a formative viewpoint, the Yangban mask has very smooth lines for the eyebrows, eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth. The facial type also seems smooth, generous and comfortable. This look can be regarded as quite close to Yangban characteristics shown in old sayings like " A yangban would not run hastily even in a heavy rain," or when looking at the protruding  lines and  engraved sides of mask, we can see some exaggeration of the features. Exaggeration and ease give contradiction feelings, but the Yangban mask may look either exaggerated or at ease due to the subtle intonation caused by a different point of view. "Having the stomach full with only three jujubes" may express contentment  or exaggeration, and the Yangban mask  sometimes seems to be exaggerating as in " A yangban picks his teeth even after only drinking a bowl of cold water."
As for the Yangban mask's expression in the movement of a performer wearing it during to play, when the Yangban(played by a performer wearing the Yangban mask)  gives a broad smile pulling back his head, then the mask gives an expression like a broad smile. The upper part of the face and lower jaw can separate from each other and both edges of the upper and lower lips move upward smoothly. However, the bowing of the actor's head leads to an angry look with the upper and lower lips of the mask closing.


The Sonbi is said to be of the scholar class who, on the basis of his profound learning, had a firm purpose like a bamboo and a lofty nature that does not compromise with the word.  The Sonbi mask on the whole looks dignified, being of purpose, stern or angry. Its face, a reverse triangle in shape, is in terms of physiognomy the countenance of a person with a fine brain and complicated thoughts. It is from a worldly point of view, the countenance of person who suffers hardships on purpose and who is generally intropective. High cheekbones and the hollow upper eyelids and cheeks indicate that
he was so absorbed in his studies that he couldn't look after his household, and his  protuberant eyes are attributed to excessive reading. He has eyes that point up with the right side eyelid     drawn downward, and a mouth with an upw ard right up right edge. This is the face of a deeply conceptualizing and even frowning person who expresses  his dissatisfaction at certain things. In addition, the bristled eyebrows also represent anger coming from his dissatisfaction.


 Paekchong was originally called huigwangi. The huigwangi was the Head Cutters class which engaged in execution during the Koryo dynasty in Korea. In a play, the Paekchong (the actor wearing the Paekchong mask) plays the role of one who destroys life, lives always with a sense of guilt due to his actions, and finally becomes insane during a thunder and lightning storm. In this play, he plays the role of one who slaughters a cow, cuts its testicles off and takes its heart out. He asks those around him to buy them, and then staggers about and exits from the stage when the sound effects of thunder are struck backstage. The sound effects come from instruments used for Korean folk music. The face of the Paekchong mask has the most crooked brow with a small lump above peaked eyes. The ridge of its nose is narrow compared with the others. The mouth has a protruding lower lip, and its brow and cheeks are heavily wrinkled. It looks threatening, and its expression, When smiling, is an insaneone. Its facial type on the whole looks rough. With its brow and lower jaw, the protruding lines of the cheeks, and the shape of the nose, its can be classified as a square shape physiognomically. It is said in physiognomy that "a man with a square countenance does not act hesitantly but bullies his way through." This behaviour fits the paekchong (or huigwangi) Who engages in butchery. In addition, a person with a crooked brow depicts wickedness and cruelty. The pointed eyes represent a bloodthirsty person, and a person with a protruding lower lip is said to be ruthless. All these qualities exist in the paekchong. Among the Hohoe masks, the paekchong mask represents its class well.
  As will be mentioned about the Chung(monk) mask, a lump on the brow represents a gloomy character and a threatening countenance . However, in the play, the Paechong fells guilty about destruction of life and goes mad on a stormy day. Therefore, in this case, the mask expresses a person seized with a sense of guilt. The paekchong's movement is called paekchong kori (Paekchong's walk) and looks ill-tempered in nature. This fits the role of the ill-tempered Paekchong who slaughters a cow, takes its testicles out, and asks spectators to buy them.

4.Choraengi(servant of the Yangban) Mask

 In the play, the Ch'oraengi plays the role of a servant to the Yangban and  enerally act rashly. Ch'oraengi behaves haughtily to the Yangban, his lord. When the Yangban and the Sonbi exchange greetings with each other, the Ch'oraegi straddles the Yangban's neck as he bows on his kness, and the Ch'oraegi greets the Sonbi instead of the Yangban. On one occasion the Ch'oraengi stands to the left side of the Yangbanand calls "Hey, Yangban," and then runs to the right side and calls out again while the Yangban looks left. The Ch'oraengi repeats this, and the Yangban turns his head to the left and right for the Ch'oraengi  several times until he finds ti troublesome and hits the Ch'oraengi with the fan in his hand. Later, the Ch'oraengi witnesses a monk(Chung) who is running away with a woman(Pune) he has seized, and tell the Imae, the servant to the Sonbi, what he saw and finally informs his lord. Like this, the Ch'oraengi, a servant of the Yangban, provokes the Yangban with his tricky and rach actions. The  Ch'oraengi mask has a brow that sticks out, a short nose with a flat tip, a wrinkled nose ridge and wrinkled wings of the nose. It has bared teeth seen in the slightly open, grimacing mouth. The mouth is like that of one who holds a grudge, with very thin lips and a pointed lower jaw. Its eyes are round holes looking straight forward and the muscles and wrinkles of the cheeks hang downward on the left and slant upward on the right.A person with a protruding brow is , in terms of physiognomy, said to disagree with his\her superiors, give up his/her housekeeping, go through all sorts of hardships, and be  extremely obstinate. This repr esents wells the Ch'oraengi's role in the play of  ridiculing his superior, the Yangban. Also in terms of physiognomy, a person with a very wrinkled nose ridge is said not to be able to accumlate property. The Ch'oraengi, as a ervant, finds it hard to make his fortune. The wrinkled nose ride in this mask is similar to those of the Sonbi and Chung masks in the play. The following statement describes correctly the Ch'oraengi's identity or role in the play. "A person with a short nose is quick-tempered and has diffeculty in securing his/her livelihood." Also, a person with  protruding eyebrows is impatient in temperament. This fits the Ch'oraengi's nature well in how he tends to advise his superior. The hollow cheeks are still more evidence of suffering from poverty and also denote a nervous temperament.  The hollow cheeks of the Sonbi or the Ch'oraengi are an indication of being poor.  The Ch'oraengi is frivolous in action, and this is also portrayed in the Ch'oraengi's manner of walking.

5.Chung(Monk) Mask

  The Chung appears on the scene as an apostate monk. He is not a Buddhist monk who practicrs the truth but a monk who wanders or transgresses.
There is a representative episode of the apostate monk in this play. In this episode, the Chung is on his way somewhere when he sees a woman (Pune or Kakshi) urinating. Upon wtinessing this sight he finds he cannot restrain his sexual desire and rakes up in his hands the soil on which the woman has urinated and smells it. Finally, he rapes her. From then on, the Chung joins her in physical pleasures, and flees with her on his back when they are caught by the Ch'oraengi. In addition, when she marries another man and goes into the bridal room the Chung, inthe bride's lover's role, hides under cover in a shest in theat room, kills the bridegroom when he is asleep, and steals her away.
  The Chung mask has the eyebrows far apart. The eyes bend like crescents and look straight ahead, and the nose is large and wide. There's a big lump on the brow while the upper lip overlaps the bottom lip and is pointed. The lower lip, which is attached to the separately suspended jaw, sticks out, and the chin protrudes pointedly.Above the eyes there are two wrinkles respectively, and also the nose, cheeks, and  upper eyelids wrinkle. Slyness can be perceived in the eyes and he smile may look cunning to viewers. When the Chung gives a broad smile by pulling back his head, the mask gives an expression like a broad smile; a smile expressing deliverance from the ties of the world in terms of physiognomy, a person with round eyes is said to be lascivious. Fourthermore a person with wrinkled lower eyelids is fated to have hardly any offspring and to have no affinity with his relatives. It is also said that if a person has a wrinkled nose ridge, he/she scnnot accumulate a fortune; or if they have a finely  wrinkled  ridge on the nose, there's a high possibility of having no children.
  These associations are readilty made in the Chung's case. It is natural that he, a wandering monk, has no fortune and a high possibility of having no children. It is said that if a person has a lump on his/her brow, he/she is of a gloomy character. Some people like this lump to the white hair on Buddha's brow but  the comparison between Buddha's lump and that of the apostate monk, if he, as a
Buddhist monk, rapes a woman, this would be considered shameful even for him.
  Also, in the play, the Chung looks about, afraid that someone might see him, and then  feels with the woman on his back when he is noticed by another person(Ch'oraengi).   Since he regards this behaviour as unbecoming a Buddhist monk, this is not honorable and that he does not want revealed, the big lump on his brow represents  is fear. It is a somewhat unclear explanation, but physiognomy tells that a person with a short nose is hasty and has difficulty in securing his/her living. As the masks of  the Chung, the Ch'oraengi, the Sonbi, and the paekchong all have shorter  noses on the whole, this may possibly support the explanation mentioned above. The Chung, asa wandering monk is hardly rich, and the Ch'oraengi as a servant of the Yangban, and the hollowed-faced Sonbi, who devotes himself only to his studies, could hardly be
considered rich men. In addition, the Halmi, to be mentioned next, with the same
characteristics is extremely poor.   The Chung's walking in the play represents neither dignity nor generosity but merely is a walk appropriate to the behaviour of the apostate monk who is cunning and insidious in his style of movement.

6. Halmi(old woman) Mask

  In the play, the Halmi shows up on the scence as an  old woman who has lived a long life of poverty and bitterness. In one episode, the Halmi bewails her hardship (she sings Pet'ulga 'Song of the Loom') While she weaves, sitting at her loom. She laments  "even though I have weaved my whole life, I have never hung new clothes on the stand for a tutelary deity. ( It was said in those days that when one hung new clothes on the stand for a tutelary deity, good fortune would come to him/her. Thus, people competed with each other to hang up new clothes.) I am ill-fated." After untying a small gourd from her waist,  she acts like she is begging with it for money. In a scene with the Yangban and the Sonbi, the Halmi appears on the stage and senselessly gets close to the Yangban who is dancing with a young woman. She also tries to dance with the Yangban, but is pushed away. Then she comes near the Sonbi but is also pushed away, showing the desolation of an old and shabby woman. When the Yangban and the Sonbi each tug at the testicles of a cow, which the paekchong has offered for sale, they finally drop them to the ground, and the Halmi picks them up. When seeing that the Yangban, The Sonbi, and the Paekchong quarrel with one another over the ownership of mere testicles, she rebukes them for each insisting on their ownership. ( This was the cause of the argument: the paekchong insists the testicles belong to him because he brought them out for sale, where as the Yangban insists they belong to him because he was the first who intended to buy them. While they each try to take them, they are dropped on the ground.) This can be her behaviour deriving from her tough attitude gained as she has lived long in the world.  The Halmi mask can be described as having a pointy shaped head. It has roundly protruding eyes that look tenacious, a thin and pointed nose, and a toothless mouth that expresses hunger.  The lower jaw is also pointed.  The lower eyelids, cheeks, and upper lip are wrinkled, and also  there are black spots on the face.
   In physiognomical terms, a person with a raised crown goes through many kinds of hardships in his/her whole life. If one has a countenance with the tips of the lips downward, he/she will also be poor. If one has a thin and pointed jaw, he/she is to be  nlucky in his/ her later years. In addition, when an old person has back spots on his/her  face, he/she is sais to live a long time. This concurs with the facts that the  Halmi bewails her lot sitting at her loom, that she has never hung new clothes on the stand for a protecting deity in her whole life and that she begs with a small gourd. Black wpots are also proper for the Halmi's face, since she has lived a lone time.
   The Halmi's walk has a shambling motion and is that of an old woman who is  old, stooped, and has protruding buttocks, The Halmi's dance is a hip dance with a shambling motion.

7.Imae (servant of the Sonbi) Mask

 The Imae appears on the scene as ths Sonbi's foolish servant. The Ch'oraengi and the Imae are members of different lower classes. They are called Chong (servant of yangban) and hain, respectively. Chong is by heredity a servant in society whereas hain is in a servant class from which one can be freed as the  occasion demands.  Therefore, if the Imae were brainy and had some means, he could possibly be freed  from the hain class. In the play, the  Imae appears as a foolish, deforned person and the very fact that the Sonbi chose him as his servant seems to be connected with the Sonbi's violent temper. He limps along on one twisted legs, and due to this odd  movement, is ridiculed by the Ch'oraengi.
  The Imae mask has drooping eyes and eyebrows, a crooked nose, and a faint smile. The cheeks droop and the smilintg  shape of its mouth looks foolish but innocent. The  facial expression on the whole also looks foolish and naive. According to legend, Ho, who was said to be the maker of the Hahoe masks, died leaving the lower jaw of the Imae mask unfinished, and thus the Imae mask  has been handed down up to the present without the lower jaw.
  According to physiognomy, if the nose is crooked, some other part of the body will be crooked also. This readily accords with the Imae who limps along on one twisted leg in the play. It is said that a person whose eyes droop at the edge has a gentle and good nature. The Imae does not slander or do harm to others, but rather he himself is slandered and harmed by others. This suggests that he seems to have a foolish character on the one hand but to be of a good and gentle nature on the other. A tottering walk can be called the "Imae-walking." This is suitable for the Imae's action who is Iame in one leg in the play.

8.Pune Mask

  The Pune mask acquired another name, the Widow mask, during its history. The Pune's position in society has been said to be a widow, or a kisaeng ( a woman who sang, danced, or played an  instrument  to  provide entertainment for  company at a drinking party), or a mistree of the Yangban or the Sonbi.
  In a one episode, The Yangban and the Sonbi call the Pune to them and respectively boast of their status and education in order to appeal to her or seduce her. Then the Pune performs the "Dance of the Crook of the Knee."  With  her kness tilted, as  if crossing her legs, she moves her head to the left and right. She puts her fingers on her chin and maskes and alluring motion. She flirts attractively with the Sonbi massaging his shoulders, and then gets close to the Yangban and attracts him by picking the lice from his hair. The Yangban has already treated the Pune courteously, quoting phrases from classical Chinese in order to woo her. In this way,  The Yangban and the Sonbi each try hard to mask her their own, and while trying to win her, she behaves in a coquettish way to both of them.
  The Pune mask can be described as slender faced with crescent-shaped eyebrows, a high nose and a small mouth. This meets all the conditions of classical beauty by traditional Korean standards. In addition, a faint smile is evident around the eyes and mouth, while the slim nose nice. The cheeks aregenerally flat without bends. The black hair hangs down to the tips of the ears. This indentified a widow in those days. The face is oval and the brows are thick whereas the lower jaw is made thin. The Pune mask is the one with a slightly crooked face among the Hahoe masks In motion, when the nose is set in a straightline, the head will be tilted to the left and when the head is set in a straight line, the nose will be titled .
   In terms of physiognomy, when a woman's eyes and mouth suggest the hint of a smile, she is classified as coquette. It is also said in Chinese physiognomy that when a woman has a crooked brow, she is to meet, i.e., marry, many men. When a woman has the habit of moving her head to left and right, she  is said to be a coquette who allures all sorts of men. This is proven true in the Pune's role as she behaves in a coquettish way to both the Yangban and the Sonbi in the play.

9.Kakshi(young woman) Mask.

The face of the Kakshi mask looks calm and impassive. The eyes look down
passively and the lips are firm-set. As for hair style, the upper front part is coiled (this style is called kach'ae) while the right and left parts are braided. The left braid is forward, the right backward. Accordingly, because these braids are in the opposite direction they appear to be swaying. The protruding cheekbone is analyzed in physiognomy as that of a widow.
  In the olden times, the newly married woman led a difficult married life in her
parents-in-law's home. This is shown well in the following statement. "The
newly-married woman must act as if she is blind, dumb and deaf during tree years in each." Among the Hahoe masks, only the Kakshi mask has firm-set lips. This feature displays well not only a hardship in her new life but also her endurance. That the eyes  look down represents the discreet attitude of the kakshi . The reason why the hair braids are produced to look as though they are swaying is that when she walks, her face does not waver and she steps lightly. For example, when the Kakshi takes one step, the right braid moves forward and the left backward and when she takes another step, vice wersa.In general, the Kashi's movement is in contrast to that of the Pune.

10. Chuji (totem beast)

 It is an animal mask which has a fin-like wing and a bill-like mouth. It is said to be the mask of a lion. This act sanctifies the place where the play is peformed by driving away demons and evil spirits.