In many ways, art is one of the most human activities we can take part in–it leaves behind not only an expression of the person who created it, but also becomes a part of the narrative that future generations use to understand their history. In this case, the art is literally one of the oldest depictions of a Korean face known–and it certainly seems to be adding to the narrative in South Korea!

It’s also drawing laughs due to a similarity to a certain South Korean rapper

Returned from a Japanese museum where the masks were taken after Japan’s colonization during World War II, the masks were unveiled in an exhibit at the National Museum of Korea at the end of October.


While there are numerous stereotypes about what a “typical Korean face” looks like, the mask seem to have struck a chord with Korean Internet users themselves. The faces, which were likely created in the second or third century CE, depict what look like two men with top-knots, narrow eyes, large noses, and “jutting” chins. These masks, which also have earrings which you can just about make out in the photos, are considered to be the oldest depictions of Korean faces. One scholar noted that there have been older “face-like” depictions, but none in such a clear form.

Obviously, the bronze masks are highly exaggerated, but apparently for some Korean Internet users, they’re not so different from the typical Korean faces of today.

“What an intense impression they leave you with!”
“What the…it kind of looks like me!”
“Hmmm…so this is what we used to look like?”
“I can see it! LOL”
“The facial features look like normal faces in Korea.”

We’re having a hard time seeing the resemblance, to be honest, but that didn’t stop fans of South Korean rapper San E from noticing a similarity to the award-winning performer. Though he apparently tried to deny it at first, San E eventually decided to play along and posted the photo below.

While they look more like caricatures you’d get drawn at a mall for $20 than proper “human” faces, the masks do provide a fascinating glimpse into how people nearly 1,800 years ago viewed themselves. Kind of makes you wonder what people in the year 3814 will be saying about our selfies on MyInstaFaceSpaceTwitterGram. Hopefully they won’t be laughing too loudly!

Sources: News1Sports Seoul,The Korea Times, Koreaboo, National Museum of Korea
Images: News1Sports Seoul

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