Moktak … the natural sound of apricot wood


One of my favorite sounds is the sound of the moktak (목탁). The moktak is a wooden percussion instrument that creates one of the most natural sounds. Moktak refers to the Chinese characters 木鐸  of mok(목) which means tree and tak(닥) which means beat.

The moktak is mainly used in Buddhist temples. There are two types of moktak.


In early morning the hand-held moktak is used to bring the monks together for the morning ritual in the temple. During daytime it is used to summon the temple community to the daily rituals such as meditation practice and work. The moktak is also used to keep the rhythm during sutra chanting.

Moktak-2The legend tells of a naughty monk, who was reborn as a fish. Out of his back grew a tree which caused him much pain. One day, his former teacher saw him swimming in a river and recognized him. So he asked his teacher to remove this tree. The master did so and carved a fish shaped instrument from it.

If you take a look at the moktak you can recognize the shape of a fish with a big eye.
This eye refers to enlightenment. As fish never close their eyes during their activities or while sleeping they symbolize permanent awakening.

Moktak-3Moktak are normally made of an apricot tree (살구 나무). It is one of the hardest types of wood that does`t break that easily during the handcraft process. Hand-held moktak are often decorated with Buddhist symbols like Lotus flowers.

They are a nice and unique souvenir of your temple experience. You can find them in various sizes in the souvenir shops at the temple complex. They are not cheap !

Moktak-5An other type of moktak is the wooden fish which is used in the morning to wake up all the living beings in the water. This wooden fish is made out of one tree and is decorated with pretty colors. It is one of the Buddhist elements that attracts me most while visiting a temple .

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