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The Sandae Mask Dance-Drama

Of the four mask dance-dramas, Sandae, named after the royal nomenclature for the office responsible for handling mask dance-drama, is the best known. It consists of 10 acts and 13 scenes, each named after the main role in each act and scene. Thus, Act One is "The High Priest;" Act Two, "The Pock-Marked Monk;" Act Three, "The Dark-Faced Monk;" Act Four, "The Monk with the Blinking Eyes" and so forth. Like the Kkoktugakshi puppet show, the Sandae brought out the triangular affair of the typical yangban, his wife and his concubine. It satirized the Choson nobility and mocked the apostate monks.

The Sandae had an all-male cast, playing and dancing to the accompaniment of traditional Korean drums, strings and winds blaring tunes based on folk songs, Buddhist invocations, shamanist invocations and the like. It also had one puppet and a set of 24 masks, one for each of the cast. It was performed on a makeshift open-air stage in the village square on holiday occasions, such as the Tano festival on the fifth day of the Fifth Moon or during shaman prayer-days for rain. Starting after sunset, the show continued deep into the night.

However, this unique Korean drama has lost much popular support. Only one troupe has continued to perform it inYangju village, Kyonggi-do province. A group was organized in Seoul about 90 years ago as the only authentic performers of the Sandae in later-day Korea, but was disbanded after 50 years. The drama has been revived with Government support and has been designated an intangible cultural asset.

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