Culture Insider: Chinese shadow puppetry

Updated: 2014-08-13 07:00


Culture Insider: Chinese shadow puppetry

Inheritor Qin Ligang performs shadow puppetry behind the screen in Xiaogan city, Hubei province. [Photo/IC]

3. How to perform shadow puppetry?

The limbs and head of a shadow figure are put together using threads to make it easy to move. A puppet is always manipulated by using five bamboo sticks.

After the puppets are ready, a white curtain will be put up, which is always a piece of white cloth one square meter in size. It is polished with fish oil to look smooth and lucent.

Now it's show time for the artists, although they are behind the screen.

When artists perform, they not only skillfully manipulate the figures using their hands, but also sing or narrate and sometimes, they even have to hit a drum using their feet.

Manipulation and singing skills are the most important factors contributing to a good shadow puppet play. Some masters can manipulate seven to eight figures at the same time.

Puppet plays usually tell dramatic versions of traditional fairy tales and myths. With the changing shadows on the curtain, beautiful or intense music, attractive narration and light effects, a shadow play can be thrilling and splendid.

Props for shadow puppetry are small and portable, and the performance can take place almost anywhere, so it was popular among people in past times.


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