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Puppet Show

Puppet Show

Puppet Show, also called Shadow Puppetry, is a type of drama that is demonstrated by the puppet but operated by the man behind the puppet.

China has a history of puppetry dating back to Han dynasty, however, it did not have new development and improvement until Tang dynasty. Then, the puppet used to display a song and dance drama. The Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) is a key period for the development of puppet show, the craftsmanship and operation skill was further improved. With the development of the social economy, the show was more commonly known nationwide, especially in the south of province. Entering Qing dynasty, the puppetry reached its heyday. There were many kinds of puppet show including Liaoxi puppet show, Zhangzhou glove puppet shows, Quanzhou marionette or string puppet show, among others. Puppet Shows are in five categories as follows: the marionette puppet, the rod-top puppet, the glove puppet, Iron branch puppet and firework puppet.

Shadow puppetry is amazing and wins the heart of an audience by its lingering music, exquisite sculpture, brisk color and lively performance. The plastic art lies in the carving and design. Generally, the string puppet is taller than others, about 2.2 feet. The strings, 30 at most and 10 at least, are used to control the body of the puppet, furthermore, the amount of strings used can increase during an aerobatics performance. Dances and acrobatic fighting performance are depended on skill of the puppeteer. The rod puppet, taller than string puppet, is about 3 feet, normally, there are three rods in a puppet, two manipulates two hands and one controls the head and body. The glove puppet is also called "bag puppet," about 7-feet-long, the smallest of the three types. The puppeteer's hand is placed directly inside the puppet, giving the direct control and manipulation of movement, from string and rod puppet.

After the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the puppet shows are extended to the fields of modern drama, song and dance shows, series sitcoms and even advertisements. Meanwhile, puppet show also faces intense competition with other arts. The traditional puppet show should be promoted and protected because they reflect ideological, moral, and aesthetic consciousness of Chinese nation. 

Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show, an uncommon show in the world, is popular in the northwest of Hainan including Lin’gao, Haikou, Chengmai and Danzhou. It is the treasure of intangible cultural heritage in Chinese nation.

According to the old puppeteer, Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show started from the end of the South Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The early residents in Lin'gao all used crabstick puppets when worshipping gods and Buddha and driving away ghosts and evils. Later on, the puppet was renovated by performers and taken to the stage. The show began during Emperor Kangxi's reign in the Qing Dynasty. The senior performer Chen Hecheng, over eighty years old then, submitted to the government his ten puppets kept for seven generations of his family in 1979. The heads of four puppets were carved with the era name "Kangxi". In the emperor Kangxi's reign there have been thirty puppet troupes including Wu Silong, Cao Daluo, Wang Xiangfa, Liu Caifeng and so on.

Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show, unique performing art, is beloved by local people, is a significant carrier of culture, the main characteristics are: in puppet shows generally, there is no cover in the stage, and the performers are on stage with puppets in costumes. In the show, the performer and the puppet play the same role. The performer uses his or her emotions to complement the deficiency of puppet expression. The performances and the puppet intersect with one another, making the show unique in history and at present. There are variety of traditional theatrical shows, after liberation, historical and modern play also be taken to the stage.

From 1981 to 1993, masters of Lin’gao Man-and-Puppet Show, Zen Xianhou went to Beijing two times to perform and won performance and music awards.

Bearing the historical, cultural and social value, the puppet show is loved by people and should be passed down from generation to generation. Today, it has an impact on pop music and dance, puppet shows face extinction, however, so it needs to be protected.