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As one of the contributions of Chinese performing art to world heritage, Chinese puppetry has a long history. It is noted for its many types of puppets and Superb manipulative skill.

No truly definitive conclusions have yet been reached on the origin and evolution of Chinese puppetry. However, pottery figurines used in place of slaves as burial objects have been discovered at the Yin Ruins dating from the Shang Dynasty (c.16th-11th century BC) in Anyang, Henan Province. Wooden figurines used as burial objects appeared during the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods (770-221 BC). In a Western Han (206 BC-AD 24)tomb at Mawangdui in Changsha, Hunan Province, a number of wooden figurines of singers, dancers and musicians have been unearthed. These were a great improvement on those from previous dynasties in terms of craftsmanship, variety and modeling. These figurines perhaps represent the earliest Chinese puppets. Over time, figurines as burial objects evolved into puppets for entertainment on festive occasions.

in 1979, a large wooden figure was discovered at Daishu Village, Yuanli Township,Laixi County, Shandong Province. (rig.3-1) The figure, 193 centimeters long and fashioned from 13 pieces of wood, has movable joints enabling it to assume a sitting, standing or kneeling position. its discovery shows that there was indeed a transitional period between figurines made to pacify the dead and their evolvement into puppets used for amusing people. It also shows that figurines with movable joints like human beings began to appear, laying a substantial foundation for the birth of Chinese puppetry. Therefore, most experts believe Chinese puppetry originated from "burial objects, "which underwent three stages of development-from slaves,to musicians,to animated singers and dancers.

As to when puppets were first used in theatrical performances, experts agree that the art "arose in Han and became popular in the Tang Dynasty" According to thc History of the Later Han Dynsty puppets already existed during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD220).During the Three Kingdoms Period, a person named Ma jun used flowing water to manipulate wooden figures to do variety acts mimicking human performance. The Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) witnessed great progress in the manufacture of jointed wooden figures activated by flowing water In addition, there appeared during that period a puppet show telling the story of Baldheaded GUo.This provides evidence for dating the formation of Chinese puppetry Records show that puppet shows recounting the story of Baldheaded Guo were performed during the following centuries. Even today, the puppet show of Heyang, Shaanxi Province has a special character Laibaozi (a man with a bald head),whose imagery and performance reveal traces of Baldheaded Guo depicted during the Qi and the later dynasties. According to historical texts, we can conctude that puppets manipulated by men were used in China to portray simple stories no later than the Qi period between 550-577.

The content and form of presentations of Chinese puppetry improved greatly along with the development of other performing arts after the Northern Qi period.During the Sui Dynasty(581-618), jointed wooden figures activated by water were used to depict fairy tales, legends and stories of the Three Kingdoms. Although they were not puppets manipulated by men, they had a direct influence on the manufacture of puppets and puppet shows. It is a pity that records are so sparse. by water were so ingeniously constructed during the Tang period that they were capable of mimicking human actions Such as drinking, inging and playing the reed pipe. judging from Tang poems and murals in the No.31 grotto at the Mogao Grottos, string, rod and glove puppets had already existed during the Tang Dynasty.

Puppetry was more sophisticated in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) than in the Tang and there is rich recorded information about it. Generally, Song puppetry was characterized by the following:(1) it widened its scope of Subject matter by adapting theatrical plays and stories passed down by story-tellers;(2) it had many types of puppets including string, road, water-activated, gunpowder-activated and human puppets;(3) The manipulative skill was Superb and the performance was lifelike;(4) A number of master manipulators of string and rod puppets such as Zhang Jinxian and Ren Xiaosan appeared. Water-activated puppets were developed on the basis of the jointed wooden figures activated by flowing water dating back to the Three Kingdoms, the gunpowder-activated puppet seemed closely related to today's fireworks, and human puppets were played by young children who moved like a puppet. in rural areas in Guangdong Province,glove and wire puppets were popular Puppetry enjoyed great prosperity during the Song period. Puppet troupes could be found everywhere in the empire. They performed in theaters in urban are8s and sometimes were summoned to play in the royal palace. In the Song Dynasty, men of letters also exhibited great interest in puppet shows. (Fig.3-2)

The Yuan Dynasty(1279-1368)was the golden age of Ziju (poetic drama set to music).it also saw progress made in puppetry. From the lntroducttan to Zhu Mfo tr Popctythe only existing text about puppetry during the Yuan Dynasty, we learn that manipulative techniques during Yuan times were sophisticated, capable of making puppets to do actions Such as talking and singing and to vividly portray the characters' feelings of joy, anger, sorrow and delight and that the repertoire of Yuan Dynasty puppetry was as realistic as its poetic drama.

Chinese puppetry further developed during the Ming and Qing dynasties (l368-1911), with a number of schools spreading across the country.

Puppetry gained great popularity during the reign of the Ming Emperor Wanli (1573-1620).in Fujian Province, where Puppetry was especially prosperous,string puppets were constructed with fine workmanship and manipulation was very complicated because each figure had up to 30 strings.Speech was vivid and the musical accompaniment was rich.Fujian glove puppets could be divided into the northern and southern branches. Quanzhou glove puppet shows belonged to the southem branch, whose music was similar to that used for string puppet shows. ZhangZhou glove puppet shows belonged to the northern branch, of which the most famous was the glove Puppetry from Longxi in southern FUjian. This branch used the xipi and erhuang tunes in music and had all types of roles. The southern branch was noted for its Plays based on myths, while the northern branch stressed plays with battle scenes. In time, the northen branch also broadened its scope of performance by including Plays adapted from fairy tales. Water-activated puppet shows during the Ming period gradually evolved interesting plots.

Rod puppets were popular in Guangdong,Fujian and Guizhou provinces during the Ming Dynasty Rod puppet shows with many types of roles were widely distributed in China during the Qing Dynasty. They could be found in HangZhou, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shanxi, Beijing and many other places. Rod pupped in Sichuan came in three sizes - large, medium and small. Rod puppets in Shanxi were divided into central and southern Shanxi type. Rod puppetry in Beijing was actually another form of Peking Opera. The art was introduced to the royal palace and was therefore popularly referred to as dataigongxi(grand palace theater). There were four well-known troupes in Beijing including theJinli and Siyi troupes. They often invited outstanding Peking Opera artists Such as Jin Xiushan and Liu Yongchun to provide background narration and songs for the shows. Strjng puppet shows were already highly developed in Shanxi's Heyang County during the Ming Dynasty. During the reigns of the Qing emperors Qianlong and jiaqing (1736-1 820), they were very popular in more tban 30 counties in the border areas between Shanxi, Shaanxi and Henan provinces, and in Heyang alone there were over 30 string puppet troupes. String puppets also enjoyed popularity in Hangzhou and Quanzhou and in Fujian's Shanghang County in particular during the reign of the Qing Emperor GuangXu(1875-1908).During the last years of the Qing Dynasty, string puppet troupes from jiangsu Province toured Southeast Asia and were well received. Wire puppets began to take shape near the end of the Qing Dynasty and became very popular in eastern Guangdong and western Fujian. Gunpowder-activated puppet shows were performed in Pucheng County, Shanxi Province during the Fire God Festival. Their representative plays in Qing times were Thc Goddess of Heaven Scatters Flowers Wu Song OverPower the Tigerand Monkey King Subdues the White Bone Demon Threc Thaes. After the 1911 Revolution, Cultural circles in Shanghai took the lead in producing modern plays. During the 1930s, in an attempt to reform traditional puppet shows by introducing modern stage design, lighting and sound effect, YU Zheguang and others created and staged new puppet shows such as Wen Tianxiang The Swan and The Eternal Grief. As a result, the scope of Subject matter for Puppet shows and the space for their performances were enlaopd. During the 1940s, puppet troupes of a new type were set up in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and other laop cities and their influence continued to grow, laying a good foundation for the development of puppetry in the People's Republic. However, traditional puppet shows were still performed in other parts of China, particularly in the vast countryside.

In the 1950s, private puppet troupes were reorganized and became government funded. Nationwide and local puppet show festivals were organized from time to time, which greatly raised the social status of puppetry and its artistic level. In April 1955, the First National Puppet Show and Shadow Play Festival was held in Beijing' Participants included troupes from 12 provinces and municipalities. Their long repertoire included jiang Gan Sthels thc Letter and Daming Prefecture. Although the items performed were mostly traditional, they had been revised with the addition of new content. In addition, new works reflecting real life were created. The festival also featured a large exhibition of valuabie wooden puppets of which those regarded as national treasures were puppets carved by JiangJiazou, a master from Quanzhou, Fujian Province. (Fig.3-3) During this period, Chinese puppettroupes were sent to perform abroad and a puppet film industry began to take shape

In january 1960, the Second National Puppet Show and Shadow Play Festival was held in Beijing. New creations Such as Monkey King Mades Havoc in Heaven, he Cowhoy and the village Girl The Dauntless Boy and The Fisherman's Song at Sea were produced at the festival. They were varied in the me and form. By then puppet performances in China had come from the street to modern theaters and puppetry had become a fully respectable stage art.

In December 1975, the Third National Puppet Show and Shadow Play Festival was held in Beijing. It featured puppet shows with modern themes and also showed that bold attempts had been made to improve the modeling of characters, sound effects and stage art. During the late 1970s, a number of new creations appeared. Ii 1978, the Quanzhou Puppet Troupe produced The Fiery Mountains, a full-length play based on an episode from the mythological novel journey to the West,which marked the beginning of a new era.

With the establishment of the Association of Chinese Puppet Shows and Shadow Plays in the early 1980s, the Ministry of Culture decided that an annual performance week of puppet shows and shadow plays be held throughout the country. At the Fourth National Puppet Show and Shadow Play Festival held in Beijing in November 1981, a large number of new puppet shows were presented, such as The Wide Swan, The Tongtian River, Nezha Stirs Up the Sop A Race Between the Hare and the Tortoise and The Proud Rooster These new shows were created to suit the tastes of both adults and children. They also reflected the policy of making puppetry move with the times and serve the needs of the masses. In the 1990s, Chinese puppetry took on a new look and prepared itself to meet the challenge of market competition. The National Puppet Show and Shadow Play Festival held in 1992 attracted more participants than ever and featured many Outstanding puppet shows.

The Wenhua Award set up by the Ministry of Culture is the top government prize for best puppet shows. So far, the award has been conferred on the China Puppet Troupe for its Magic suona Horn, the Hunan Puppet Troupe for its Red-Cloud, the Shanghai Puppet Troupe for its Nezha Comes Across Visitors trom outer Space and The Toad and the Goose, the Chengdu Puppet Troupe for its Nezha and the Tianjin Children's Puppet Troupe for its Potbellied Budda.

The Artistic Characteristics of Chinese Puppetry

The Modeling of Chinese Puppetry

During the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties,puppet shows gradually spread from the cities to the countryside. Puppet shows from various places had their own unique characteristics with strong local color in terms of figure modeling. String puppets from Quanzhou and Heyang, glove puppets from Zhangzhou,rod puppets from Guangdong, wire puppets from Chaozhou,shoulder-pole puppets from Wuqiao and large rod puppets from Sichuan were all finely and vividly crafted. They had all types of roles-the Sheing dan,jing and chou-as in Chinese opera. Among the puppet carvers during that period the best-known were jiang Jiazou and Xu Ziqing.Since the Republican era, especjally in the last few decades, Chinese puppet troupes have become highly professional. Puppet shows are no longer performed in the open air by itinerant artists, but instead in modern theaters. Puppets are modeled with modern techniques. Generally speaking, China's puppet design and modeling have reached a considerably high level and are able to keep pace with the times. Development of Chinese puppet modeling can be divided into three stages:

The first stage puppets featured 70 percent painting and 30 Percent carving.Puppet heads were carved in a simple fashion and then their faces were painted in accordance with the characters they represented.

The second stage stressed both carving and painting. Puppet makers began to attach great importance to creativity and carving techniques and professional puppet makers and puppet-making workshops appeared. The first and second stages covered the time before the Ming-Qing period.

The third stage witnessed the development of plastic arts and freedom in creation. Modern puppet makers make full use of new materials according to the needs of plays and the requirements of modern aesthetics. Their puppets, characteristic of artistic exaggeration, fully exhibit the unique quality of puppetry and have broken free from the conventions of Chinese opera in deiineation of characters. This stage marks a prosperous era unknown in the history of Chinese puppet modeling.

The Mechanisms of Chinese Puppetry

Puppet art has two major aspects: modeling and performing arts. Mechanisms and modeling are a unified whole and a means to suit the performance. Together they provide the preliminary aspect in the per forming art of puppet shows. The mechanisms of Chinese puppets are becoming increasingly complicated. Following are the most important types of puppets in China: Rod Puppets They are wide spread in China. They range in length from a inches to that of an average adult, and vary from place to place.

Rod puppets are manipulated by a main rod which is inserted through the neck and attached to the head, and two rods which control the hands. Hence, in some areas the rod puppet is called "Three Rods." The hand rods can be placed either in or outside the sleeves. The head is carved from wood. Mechanisms in the hollow head move the eyes and mouth. The main rod, made either of wood or bamboo, runs through the neck to the head, with the length varying from place to place. The hand rods are attached to the elbow and wrist. Puppets with the hand rods concealed in the sleeves are used in traditional operas. The bulky costumes used for Chinese opera provide ample space for manipulatingthe rods, resulting in lifelike actions. Puppets with the hand rods outside the sleeves have a bent main rod. it is less tiring for the per former to raise the puppet by holding the bend at the end of the main rod and easier for him to manipulate. The head of the puppet with the hand rods placed outside the sleeves can be made of papier mache, and these are light and easily manipulated by the main rod. In addition, there is a large hollow space for additional mechanisms that help the puppet enrich its facial expressions. As the hand rods are placed outside the sleeves, the body can be molded to meet the needs of the character Instead of wood and plastic, the hands are now shaped with resin and wire has been. used to replace wood or bamboo as the material for making hand rods. Rod puppets have no feet, and unattached legs are used for kicks and other leg movements.(Fig.3-4) Due to constant improvements on the making and manjpulation of rod puppets, this type of puppetry is still very popular in China.

String Puppets About two feet in height, the string puppet consists of a head, torso, limbs and control board. The head is carved from camphor, Chinese linden or willow wood. Mechanisms contained in the head can make the five sensory organs move as the situation requires. he torso is woven with bamboo filaments. The hads of warriors have oexible fists capable of wielding weapons. The agile hands of a gentleman can hold small props such as a writing brush, a cup or a folding fan. The feet can be fitted with either boots or ladies' slippers, and, if desired, can remain bare. The strings used to control the puppet are about 3 feet long. With the development of Chinese puppetry, large stages are now used for string puppet performances. The Quanzhou Puppet Troupe in Fujian has introduced innovations in its stage structure. With the puppeteers standing on a bridge above the platiorm, there is more stage area for the puppets. the strings used to control them have been extended to six feet. Although this increases the difficulty of manipulation, it can make the puppets perform more vividly Generally, 16 strings are used. However,their number can be increased or decreased as the situation demands. Puppets in Heyang, Shaanxi have only five strings, but they can be increased to more than 30 for complicated tricks. Wire Puppats which evolved from shadow plays, are very popular in eastCrn Guangdong and western Fujian. They are called paper shadow plays in Chaozhou and Shantou. They measure about 1-1.5 feet in length with painted heads made of clay, bodies carved out of tung wood, papier mache hands and wooden feet.They are controlled by three metal rods - one main rod and two side rods, all fixed with bamboo handles. The puppeteer either stands or sits behind the puppet when manipulating. In recent years, the puppct has been improved by increasing its length and adjusting the placement of the control rods.

Glove Puppets Also called palm puppets, consist of a head, a body and clothing. Glove puppets, about a foot in length, are most popular in Fujian's Zhangzhou and Quanzhou. Carved out of camphor wood, the head contains mechanisms used to control facial muscles. The hands are either open or clenched.The puppeteer inserts his forefinger into the hollow neck and his thumb and middle finger into each sleeve to control the head and hands. In order to enrich the arm movements, a thin bamboo stick is placed in the sleeves and turned. Skilled puppeteers can make their puppets do highly difficult actions such as opening a folding fan, changing clothes, brandishing a sword, fighting and jumping out of a window, all to the surprise of the audience. Chinese rod puppetry boasts a rich repertoire which includes not only traditional items but also modern plays, mythical plays and fairy tales. (Fig.3-5)

Apart from the aforesaid types of puppet, water-activated and gunpowder-activated puppets can still be found in China but their influence is insignificant. Although human puppets still perform, they are regarded as folk art confined to certain regions.

Chinese Puppetry Show Stage Art

As puppets ore used to imitate human beings, the stage for puppet shows must have the function of hiding the puppeteers from view, separating the audience from the performing platform and focussing audience attention on the puppets.

In stage art, Chinese puppetry used to follow the tradition of Chinese opera. In the past, most string puppet shows were performed on a stage open on three sides with a back curtain to conceal the puppeteers and two doors marked with the words "Minister in Court," and "General in Battle" respectively for the puppet characters to enter and exit. The stage for glove puppet shows is built of wood in palatial architecture, gilded and beautifully painted. it can also be disassembled and reassembled easily, making it possible to use the space on the stage in a better way. Elegant and graceful, most glove puppet sages are actually beautiful works of art. Over the past few decades, Chinese puppetry has developed into a fully-fledged stage performance. While inheriting and developing the tradition of the art, it learned the strong points of modern dramatic art and improved its stage design by employing new materials, modern sound and light effects, illumination and sets to enhance its performance.

Chinese puppetry undetwent tremendous changes during the 1970s and 1980s.Great efforts were made to bring the unique feature of the puppet to the forefront. Instead of performing stylized movements as in Chinese opera, puppets were made to perform as naturally as possible. Puppeteers often performed without any screen or Curtain to conceal them and sometimes different types of puppets appeared in the same play. Inspired by the effect of using colors not easily discernible by the eye, puppeteers performed in black velvet costumes in front of a black velvet backdrop. This and modern stage devices gave the audience the illusion that the stage was much laopr than it really was and attracted their attention to the maximum. Outstanding productions of stage design during the past decades include The Story of the Goldfish Monkey King Makes Havoc in Heaven, and Chang E Goes to the Moon which are traditional plays, the modern play of Heroic Little Soldiers of the Eghth Route Army and Magic Aster.

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Puppets from Various Places
China has many types of puppets. Puppets from various places have their own unique characteristics. Even when the same types of puppets are used, they differ and feature strong local color in terms of manipulative skill, puppet mechanisms, figure modeling, stage art and vocal performance.
Chinese Puppetry and International Exchanges
Chinese puppetry spread to the outside world during the Tang and Song dynasties and spread even wider in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Soon after the 1911 Revolution, Chinese puppeteers made a performance tour of Singapore, Penang and Luzon. In the 1920s and 1930s, Hebei shoulder-pole puppet plays made their appearances in japan,the Soviet Union and Southeast Asia.
The Methods of Operation and Carving Art of Figures
Ox-hide shadow show is an art combining opera, music, fine art and special craftsmanship. Although it is a folk art prevalent in society withoutsignificant skills, yet its unique execution method and cutting and carving skills have made an important chapter in the history of the Chinese arts.
The Schools of Modern Shadow Theater
In the popuiarization of shadow show through the late Qing period to the eariy stage of the Republic of China, three major and most jnnuential schools have been formed in China.

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