무동놀이 ( 舞童戏 )
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Korean Folk Arts
Young children (mostly boys) dressed up as girls or child monks performing acrobatics and various other skills or stunts hoisted on the shoulders of adult performers.
Mudongnori was performed by itinerant groups of male entertainers called namdasangpae mostly around Gyeonggi-do Province as an expression of people’s prayers and wishes for longevity and to prevent an epidemic. Hyeomnyulsa, Korea’s first modern indoor theater, had some 80 affiliated members consisting of namsadang members and gisaeng (female entertainers) in traditional society who all boarded together. The gisaeng, originally part of itinerant groups of female entertainers called sadangpae, were eventually incorporated into the male group. When the joint performances of gisaeng and sotdaejaengi (men who performed acrobatic feats on ropes held above ground stretching in four directions from a high pole in the middle) became popular, mudongtagi (children riding on the shoulders of adult performers) and other acrobatics and stunts began to emerge as staged entertainments.
When mudongnori was performed, aside from the child called mudong (lit. dancing child), the person at the bottom is called mitdong (bottom child), and the person in the middle jungdong (lit. middle child). The child dressed as a young monk is called sami, and is generally the youngest child in the troupe. The sami was dressed in white pants and jacket (jeogori) with a white, wide-sleeved monastic robe on top and a peaked hat (gokkal) on the head.
In Pyeongtaek Nongak from Gyeonggi-do Province, the stunts featured in mudongnori are shown in the following order: matdongni, dongnibadgi, deonjilsawi, apdwigondu, sammudong, gireogisang, omudong, and donggeori. There is also a stunt that involves moving the child from the shoulders to the head and back to the shoulders again, then on top of the arms and back to the shoulders. The musicians generally play a slow jjeokjjeogi or samchae (three-strike) rhythm. The different skills and stunts featured in mudongnori are as follows.
- Dongni (danmudong, lit. one dancing child)
One child performs hoisted onto the shoulders of an adult.
Child and adult pairs who have just performed dongni come into the center and perform dongnibadi or deonjilsawi.
- Dongnibadi (lit. receiving the child)
The youngest child performer (sami, or saemi) is thrown into the arms of the child who has just performed dongni.
The performer who has just carried a single child on his shoulders (dongni) now places that child on his head and runs toward another pair opposite and throws the child at them.
The adult performer takes the child from his shoulders and spins him downwards to the front and lifts him back up again just before he touches the ground and repeats the same action at the back before placing the child back on his shoulders again.
- Sammudong (triple mudong, or human tower of three)
One adult gets on the shoulders of another, becoming the “middle child” and the youngest child, sami, is placed on his shoulders at the top.
In the triple mudong state, the middle person holds the child at the top so that he is lying sideways. This formation is likened to the mast on a boat and is hence called mangyeongchangpa dotdaesawi, meaning a movement like “the mast in the middle of the vast ocean”
- Omudong (lit. quintuple mudong, or human tower of five) (gongmadang)
In triple mudong position, another child is added to the side of the adult performer at the bottom.
In triple mudong position, another child is added to each shoulder of the person at the bottom to form a sort of five-tier formation.
As seen in the nongsapuri (nongak performance mimicking farming procedures) of Gangneung or the jjikgeumnori of Utdari Nongak there is another act where the mudong and beopgu (small drum) players dance while turning their heads, with one hand planted on the ground as if transplanting rice seedlings. In Pyeongtaek Nongak the beopgu players enter in two lines. The line on the left side and the line on the right side repeatedly sit down and stand up in turn. This is called jeolgudaengi beopgu, as it the up and down motion resembles that of the pestle in the mortar (jeolgu). The most notable parts of the mudongnori in the entertainmentbased component of nongak, called pangut, are jjikgeumnori and jjeokjjeokchum, in which the child performers and beopgu players sit down facing each other and mimic the movements of transplanting rice seedlings.
The pangut of Gangneung Nongak features child performers playing the beopgo (small drum, lit. dharma drum) and sogo as they make line formations and large formations in various shapes, and perform various movements and dances. Constantly following the signals of the sangsoe (lead gong player), the child performers mimic the movements of various farming procedures, such as transplanting seedlings or harvesting rice with the beopgo players. The beopgo players perform a stunt called donggoribadgi, which means carrying mudong on their shoulders, in this case up to five in total. In bangageori, the beopgo player lets the children down from his shoulders and makes them lie down and mimics the movement of moving a treadmill up and down. In banga jjigki, the beopgo player becomes the treadle, the sogo player the central connecting part, and child performers mimic the act of treading on the mill or winnowing grains. When two beopgo players sit down their outstretched arms linked, one beopgo player then lies on top and spreads his legs open. One beopgo player and one child work the treadle while another child makes winnowing and plowing moves.
Mudongnori is a custom that is practiced as an expression of wishes for a good harvest; is a native rural form of entertainment performed all over the country on major seasonal subdivisions of the year. Survey and research has revealed that during the Joseon Dynasty, mudongnori was a folk entertainment performed by boys under the age of 16, dressed as girls, at various events and occasions such as daribapgi (crossing the bridge) on the first full moon day of the year (Daeboreum), susinje (rite to the god of water to prevent water related disaster) in the first lunar month, Buddha’s birthday, rice transplanting, weeding the rice paddies, moseumnal (day to thank farmhands for their hard work), homissisi (festivities at Baekjung on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month), major holidays such as New Year and Chuseok, and banquets such as 60th birthday parties. Mudongtagi, that is, when the child performers ride on the shoulders of adults, the main point is not whether the child is a boy or girl but how the children are disguised and the visual tension that comes watching the child dance and do stunts on the shoulders of another performer. Mudongnori lends itself well to indoor stage performance and is often performed during the intervals of shows featuring a diverse repertoire as a transition to the next act.
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Korean Folk Arts