Andong Mask Festival
Rudy: "Even though we're still a good five or six weeks away from Halloween, in a small, very ancient village in Korea, the people are dusting off their masks and getting ready for a cultural celebration with, well, with somewhat scary roots, too. Here's Michelle Kholos with this week's Culture Watch. Hi Michelle."
Michelle: "Hey Rudy."
Rudy: "So witches and demons and goblins, oh my? In Korea?"
Michelle: "No, none of those. Just ghosts. See, back in 1300, in what's now the southern province of Andong, a group of restless spirits had an idea for some good entertainment. They wanted the nearby villagers to throw a festival. So one night they got together."
Rudy: "Oh, lemme guess. One dark and stormy night..."
Michelle: "Uh, okay, one dark and stormy night, these spirits entered the dream of a local guy. They commanded him under penalty of death to secretly retreat to a cave and make wooden masks for a dance in their honor."
Rudy: "So what happened? Did he do it?"
Michelle: "Yeah. He fled faraway, deep inside this cave, and for a hundred days he worked, fashioning 12 different masks for the dance. But, eventually, his lover missed him. She went looking and found his cave, found him, and found his masks. Since the secret was out, the spirits killed their mask-maker, right there on the spot. He collapsed and died in a pool of blood."
Michelle: "Yeah, pretty gruesome."
Rudy: "I'll say."
Michelle: "Nevertheless, the Andong Mask Dance Festival is one of South Korea's most spectacular events. The government places it on the short list of the country's 'most authentic festivals.' And the small, picturesque village where it happens really hasn't changed much for 500 years: mud huts, subsistence farming, and an intricate clan structure dating back to the mid-1500s. What's funny is that 'mask dancing', a tradition in Korea, China and Japan, is becoming an international phenomenon. Last year the Andong festival featured troupes from Canada and Mexico."
Rudy: "Sounds great! When's it all happen?"
Michelle: "The Andong Mask Dance Festival starts September 28 and runs for 10 days. And that's this week's culture watch."
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