Circus is an art of skills that gives people strong will and courage and excitement and joy of life. It is also effective in cultivating bravery. So, it is encouraged in many countries.
The national circus of our country has developed as an independent genre of art from olden times. It is well illustrated by murals of tombs built before the birth of Christ.
The mural of the Phalchong-ri tomb, a historical site of Koguryo (277 BC–AD 668), portrays two men riding horses, displaying their stunts without holding the reins and turning round the people blowing big horns and beating drums. This is a glimpse of riding circus.
The tomb murals in Phalchong-ri, Yaksu-ri and Susan-ri show the manual dexterity by depicting people throwing several balls and sticks in the air continuously, the foot tricks by depicting an acrobat walking and dancing to the tune on a wooden ladder with a man’s height and the fencing stunt by depicting a man holding sword in various postures. Hosonmu , a stunt of dancing on a big rolling ball, was well known to other countries for its high level.
Many folk circus events are being handed down. Among them are Kumhwan , a kind of manual dexterity throwing and receiving golden bells, Pajjulthagi , a kind of balancing on a rope, Saeminori and Ttangjaeju , a kind of plastic acrobatics, and Popkojaeju , a kind of manual dexterity.
In the Middle Ages, troupes of singers and dancers played the stunt of standing on the shoulders and clowns, rope walking. The peasant dance of turning round decorative tassels was widely played as a folk game with many acrobatic elements.
In Korea there were various forms of feats such as rotation, plastic acrobatics and dexterity and many peculiar movements in the physical acrobatics.
They were diversified in techniques and depicting methods. Physical acrobatics were organically combined with martial arts, dance or folk games. So, artistic rhythms and expressive depicting methods were used in those events.
Various movements of riding, fencing and spearing were played in the horsemanship, and several movements combined with musical rhythms were played in Popkojaeju .
They show the creative artistic talents, brave and resourceful spirit and optimism of the Korean people who attached importance to martial arts, and reflect the highly-developed level of acrobatics which were played to the accompaniment of music.