DONGNAE YARYU is a Yeongnam style of a masquerade play

The DONGNAE YARYU (masquerade play of Dongnae) was influenced by Suyeong Yaryu. It has been performed for over 120 years in Oncheon-dong, Dongnae-gu.

DONGNAE YARYU is a Yeongnam style of a masquerade play. Its main contents are composed of satire and criticism towards commoners and noblemen. It is a traditional Korean play containing wit and movement. It is said that in the 1930's, the opening part of DONGNAE YARYU was Gilnori (street dancing), which hundreds of people performed. This was then followed by a mask play.

After all subsequent Gwajangs (Acts) of the play, a party was given where both actors and audience enjoyed themselves. In a typical DONGNAE YARYU PERFORMANCE, there are four Gwajangs. These are known as: Mundungi (leper) Gwajang, Yangban (upper class of ancient Korea) Gwajang, Yeongno (a kind of an imaginary monster) Gwajang and Halmi (elderly woman) and Yeongam (elderly man) Gwajang.

A brief introduction to the Gwajangs:

Mundungi Gwajang

This Gwajang is in the form of a pantomime where performers play lepers. The lepers are actually upper class people but have been doomed with incurable leprosy because of the accumulated sins of their ancestors. The lepers thus express their unappeasable resentment and bitter sorrow through the pantomime.

Yangbon Gwajang

This is the Gwajang where manservant, Malddugi showcases his wit and thus exposes the commoners' ill feeling and grievances against the Yangbans (noblemen). Malddugi hurls all kinds of scornful, humiliating and bitterly sarcastic words at five incompetent Yangbans who merely adhere to empty formalities and vanity. Malddugi makes a fool of the Yangbans with the help of witty puns.

Yeongno Gwajang

Yeongno is an imaginary half man-half animal like monster said to have come down from heaven. If it can eat Yangbans (noblemen), it can return to heaven. So it appears on the scene and tries to catch and eat the Yangbans.

Halmi and Yeongam Gwajang

This Gwajang deals with a love triangle between three characters, a Yeongam (elderly man), a Halmi (elderly woman) and a Jedae-gaksi (a concubine). The Gwajang essentially displays the conflicting relationship between the elderly woman and her husband's concubine.

DONGNAE YARYU is one of the three traditional masquerade plays, the others being Talchum in Haeseo and Sandaenori in central Korea. DONGNAE YARYU is also called Dongnae Deulnoleum (field playing). The Chinese term for field playing is Yaryu. The Korean term for field playing is Deulnoreum. The terms are interchangeable but it is generally called Yaryu in Dongnae and Yayu outside of Dongnae.

The Yaryu or Yayu or Deulnoreum is performed in the fields on lunar January 15 when the moon is full. It is held to wish the village safety and a good year's harvest. Its history is not accurately known, but it is assumed to be over 120 years old. Performances of this play were interrupted by the Japanese suppression of Korean traditional culture and by the Korean War, but in the 1960s, scholars and local historians researched it, revamped it, and presented the play in its present form. Dongnae Yaryu was designated an Intangible Cultural Asset in 1967. In most Korean traditional folklore plays there is an intermission between the Gwajangs (Acts). However, in the Dongnae Yaryu the Mundungi, Yangban, and Yeongno Gwajangs (Acts) are performed consecutively without a break. In addition in the Halmi and Yeonggham Gwajangs (Acts) of the Yaryu when Halmi dies, 5 Korean shamans appear and lead the Halmi's soul to the heaven. This is not often done in other similar types of plays. One of the main scenes of the play is The Sangjyeosori (elegy) sung when moving the coffin however the Gukerijangdan (Gukeri Rhythm) and Deotbaegichum (Deotbaegi Dance) scenes are usually considered the best features of the this traditional folklore play.

-The above information is courtesy Busan Folklore Conservation Association, Korea

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