Bongwon Temple Monks: (L) perform cymbal dance; (R) perform butterfly dance

Buddhist Dances

The underlying belief behind Buddhist dance is to offer one’s body to Buddha. Chants and instrumental music are essential in setting the tone for Buddhist dance, where a skilful dancer is able to exhibit the power and tension between the inner emotions and with the beat of the drum.

Three types of Buddhist dance include: the butterfly dance, cymbal dance, drum dance and T’aju or eight–fold path dance. Traditionally, the butterfly dance is performed by one or two monks holding lotus flowers in their hands and wearing white costumes with hoods to depict butterflies. Movements include half squats and standing positions, where movements are slow, quiet and meditative in nature generated by serene and tranquil Buddhist chants.

The cymbal dance is performed with dancers carrying large brass cymbals in both hands, which they strike or occasionally lift above their heads. This dance is usually accompanied by loud songs, a conical oboe, gong and drum. In contrast, the drum dance is performed solo by a monk striking a large drum and accompanied by a loud and spirited ensemble. The beating of the drum represents Nirvana, or attaining salvation in Buddhist philosophy.

This video is from the 2008 SooRyu Dance Festival and shows a cymbal dance by the Bongwon Temple Monks of Okcheon Buddhist Music College.
This video is from the 2008 SooRyu Dance Festival and shows the butterfly dance by the Bongwon Temple Monks.