Korea, South: Woman playing a drum (janggu)

Front view
Front view

General description Married woman playing an hour-glass-shaped drum with two drumheads standing on a circular wooden block.

Dimensions  24 cm x 12 cm x 11 cm

Date when acquired 1998

Original Date 1998

Source South Korea; a present from Ms Kim (a former student of mine)


Plastic with painted features. Her hair is painted on at the front and has little plastic rectangles at the temples. The rest of her hair is made of black threads which are gathered tightly at the nape of her neck in a plait that is rolled up to form a bun. This hair style indicates that she is married.         


Back view
Back view                             


The woman is wearing a short jacket (jeogori) with the ends of the collar (goreum) tied decoratively at the front. The body of the jacket is green silk while the sleeves are in colourful stripes (blue, white, red, green, pink and yellow). The collar (git) is in the same coloured stripes but narrower with silver thread worked between each pair of stripes. This is a jacket in the saekdongot (patchwork) style. Under the jacket is a type of skirt made by wrapping a piece of red silk material (backed with white silk) decoratively around the body. The material is wrapped tightly around the lower part of the legs and somehow is formed up into a point rising to the level of the nape of the neck before being wrapped around the body from left to right and finishing in a point at the height of the waist on the right. A gold border of geometric design with eight-petalled flowers is printed around the hem and going up the front of the skirt.

Her white shoes (hye) are part of her plastic body.


Side view showing the jokduri
Side view showing the jokduri


The woman’s bun is held in place by a long blue plastic pin (binyeo). On the front of her head, the doll is wearing a traditional coronet (jokduri) in red material decorated with sequins (gold and red) and little white and gold beads. The edges of the coronet are trimmed with gold braid. It has four threads in brown, green and white hanging down to just above her eyebrows.

Hanging on a red cord from her shoulders is a double-headed drum (janggu) made of red and white plastic. The drum is strung with yellow cord and has blue plastic pitch-adjusting grips on the strings of the drum. At the centre of each skin is a pattern in yellow red and blue, which is apparently a common Korean drum symbol. This is the tricoloured taegeuk (Sam Saeg-ui Taegeuk), where red represents heaven, blue the earth and yellow humanity.


Background information

The colourful stripes used in the doll’s jacket is a type of traditional Korean patchwork (saekdongot). This type of patchwork has been used for traditional hanbok since the Goryeo period (918–1392 CE). The name literally means “many coloured (saekdong) clothes (ot)” in Korean.

Head of janggu drum showing the tricoloured taegeuk
Head of janggu drum showing the tricoloured taegeuk

The janggu (slim-waist drum) is the most widely used drum in traditional Korean music. It has an hourglass-shaped body with two heads made from animal skin. The two heads produce sounds of different pitch and timbre as the left head (book) is covered with thick cowhide, horsehide or deerskin to produce deep and low tones and the right head (chae) is covered with either dog skin or a lighter horsehide to produces higher tones. When the two drumheads are played together, they are believed to represent the harmony of man and woman. Like other Korean instruments the janggu is usually played sitting down cross-legged, but in lively folk music it is also carried by dancers doing the Jangguchum dance. The tight skirt on this doll would seem to prevent her from either sitting cross-legged or even dancing very lively. I still have no idea what this type of skirt is called despite regularly looking for it in the internet.



Source(s) of information








See also Korea: General information


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