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Intangible Heritage of Humanity List print


Cheoyongmu Masked dance performed to dispel evil spirits

Cheoyongmu is performed wearing the mask of Cheoyong, a fictional character from the Silla kingdom (57 BC ~ 935 AD). Of all the court dances in Korea, it is the only one in which a mask depicting a human is used, instead of a god or spirit. The dance is sometimes called ‘Obang Cheoyongmu’ (obang refers to the four cardinal directions and the center).

Cheoyongmu is based on the legendary tale of Cheoyong. A long, long time ago during the reign of King Heongang (in power 875 ~ 886), an evil spirit came to the kingdom spreading smallpox and disease. The spirit tried to rape Cheoyong’s wife, but before he could, Cheoyong was able to chase the spirit away with his singing and dancing. From then on, people believed that putting a drawing of Cheoyong on their outside gate would ward off sickness and a variety of evils.

Cheoyongmu is an art form combining masks, costumes, music, and dance. Though there are many variations of the actual movements, the accompanying song and music have remained the same. The dance is performed by five men clad in white (symbolizing the West), blue (East), black (North), red (South) and yellow (the center). The message of the dance is the theory of Ying/Yang and the Five Elements. The dance is supposed to bring luck and positive energy and ward off evil, and reflects this flow of energy through vigorous body movements.

Cheoyongmu was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset in Korea in 1971 and was inscribed on the UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity in 2009.

Where to see Cheoyongmu: There are no places offering long running performances of Cheoyongmu, but the National Gugak Center often stages the dance during its programs or events.   
National Gugak Center Homepage
    (Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian)
1330 tt call center +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese)
Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea Homepage (English)


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