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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.

Glove Puppet Shows in Longxi, Fujian

Glove puppets in Longxi are also known as palm puppets. According to Records of Zhangzhou Prefecture,puppet shows appeared in Longxi during the Song Dynasty. Glove puppets flourished after the middle of the Qing Dynasty and before the War of Resistance AgainstJapan in 1937, almost every township in Longxi,Zhangpu, Haicheng and Changtai counties in Fujian had a professional or amateur puppet troupe,and puppetry became part of the spiritual life of the people in the area.

The glove puppet is manipulated with fingers. Because it is capable of forceful and rapid movements, it is most suited to battle scenes. The main feature of glove puppets is their heads. The noted puppet carver Xu Zhuchu and his son carefully studied the types of roles in Chinese opera and their facial masks and produced many fine puppet heads that represented all types of people-the loyal and the treacherous, the good and the evil. The performance levei of a puppeteer depends on his finger dexterity. A good puppeteer makes full use of an assortment of his puppet's postures to portray his charactCr's inner feelings. Hard training and practice enables a puppeteer to rotate his hand inside the glove or to rapidly and unerringly transfer the puppet from one hand to the other without being noticed. glove puppeteer is in fact a three-in-one artist. He usually handles two puppets at a time and he must divide his attention between the two while maintaining a level head and exhibiting the skill at his finger tips. The famous puppet artist Yang Sheng is perhaps the Outstanding representative of glove puppet manipulators from LongXi. His magic hands seem able to speak, dance and express the feeling of his characters. He is most proficient in plays based on stories from Romancc of the Three kingdoms, outlaws of the Marsh and Chinese mythology which consist mainly of battle scenes, with the emphasis on acrobatics. He can make his puppets do tricks such as puffing and blowing, contracting their necks,swinging their pigtails and taking off their clothes. He made his name as an outstanding puppet artist for his play jiang Gan Stasls the Letter, an episode from Romance of the Three kingdoms. He performed abroad and won acclaim for his Lei Wanchun Fights the a Tiger and Daming Prefecture. His excellent delineation of characters, songs in distinctive Peking opera tunes and superb manipulation can best represent the highest level of the glove puppetry of the northem school in Fujian. (Fig.3-6)

Longxi boasts several hundred plays on different Subjects including traditional plays, modern plays and plays for children. Longxi puppeteers have performed on four continents and won gold medals in the Second International Puppet Festival for their Lei Wanchun Fights With a Tiger and Daming Prefecture. Their representative works include jiang Gan Stalls the Letter, Marrying by Force and Zheng Chcopng.

String Puppets in Quanzhou

String puppets in FUjian are known as kUileixi They are manipulated by puppeteers concealed behind a Curtain. Quanzhou string puppets are about two and a half feet long. Generally, 16 strings are used for each figure. However, this can be extended to more than 30 if special movements of the puppet require. All strings are attached to a control board. As the placement of strings is reasonable and strict, the movements of the puppet are nimble and lifelike.

In the past,string puppet shows were presented on a plain raised plartorm, with just enough room for four puppeteers to stand behind the screen to perform the following four roles: the sheng(men),dan(women), beior jing(painted faces)and za(clowns,supernaturals, animals or other minor characters). However, stages are now constructed in two main units-the bridge and the platform. The innovation has provided substantially more stage area.Changes have also been made in the form and structure of the puppet. A good example is the puppet playing the role of the Iron-Fan Princess in the mythical play The Fiery Mountaot It is, in fact, the combination of the string, rod and glove puppets manipulated by two persons instead of one and able to adroitly perform a diversity of movements.

Quanzhou string puppetry has 36 puppets comprising the sheng dan,fing mo(minor male roles)and Chou(clowns) as well as gods, spirits, tigers and dogs. Quanzhou string puppet shows are all based on the written script, known popularly as kudeibu The Simei String Puppet Troupe of Quanzhou has a rich repertoire of more than 500 plays including The Story ot Yue Fei, outlaws of the Marsh, journey to the West and the rare plays of Zhang Fei Makes His Escape Han Xiangzi and Creation of the Goas.

Puppetry is an art form which stresses the performance of the puppeteers. Throughout the history of puppetry, a number of gifted puppeteers have made a name for themselves. In the last years of the Qing Dynasty,Lin Chengchi and others from Quanzhou's Longban String Puppet Troupe were able to make their puppets do stunts such as sheathing and drawing a sword and opening an umbrella and He Zhan of Quanzhou's Huban Puppet Troupe could make his character do four movements simultaneously: kicking the leg, pointing a finger, holding a scabbard and rolling the eye-balls. In modern times, a number of puppeteers distinguished themselves with their superb art of manipulation and the design of movements of their puppets.Zhang Xiuyin was famous for his character Lady White in The White Snake Xie Zhenxiang for his Wu Yuan in A Topsure Contgyt at Tongguan Pass and Huang Yique for his young Buddhist novice in Flooding the jinshan Temple.(Fig.3-7)

String Puppets in Heyang, Shaanxi

the string puppet show of Heyang, Shaanxi is one of the oldest genres of puppetry in China judging from the fact that its puppets closely resemble the figurines crafted during the Tang period,combined with the fact that it still retains the baldheaded clown (Fig.3-8) which was characteristic of the puppet dating from the Northern Qi Dynasty in the sixth century Heyang puppets are between 80-90 centimeters long. Older puppets are flat, with most lacking hands and feet-Each puppet is controlled by 5-7 strings, three of which are attached to the head, two to the wrists and one to the waist. The number of strings can be increased to 13 if required. In the past,strings used to control the puppet were about one meter long. Along with the introduction of the new stage in the 1970s, puppeteers began manipulating puppets from above and have since used much longer strings. Over centuries of practice, Heyang puppeteers have developed eight techniques for using both their hands and arms to manipulate the strings by lifting, pulling, hooking, jerking, twisting, swinging, oscillating and shaking. They use these techniques to make their puppets dance and do many other movements closely resembling human beings. In the past, stages for puppet show were usually a platform about three meters square, resting on wooden piles. Doors on either side served as entry and exit points for the puppets. A puppet troupe generally consisted of 11 persons, including an orchestra of six and five puppet operators.

Li Guan,a playwright who lived during the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, was closely associated.ith puppeteers in Heyang. He introduced innovations in the structure and modeling of puppets, improved the vocal presentations and wrote many play, for Heyang puppet shows. Famous puppeteers at that time inciuded Wang Wuhan "Liuliuzi"and Dang Wenhui. Puppeteers from the younger generation like Wang Hongmin and Xiao Wangieng have also contributed to the art of manipulation.Their puppets are capable of highly intricate movements Such as moving a chair, writing with a brush and carrying loads with a shoulder pole. over the years, their performances have won awards from time to time.

Puppet theater in Heyang has a large repertoire of some 500 traditional plays and plays of adventure and detection. The most popular are The thebo Bower The Pavilion of the immortal Sent Down to Earth for Transgression in Heaveo and The Gold Hairpin.Ttaditionally,following each play,Heyang puppeteers usually perform one or two humorous sketches to the delight of audiences. Heyang puppetry features the beauty of antiqujty in its presentabon style,and its music is vivacious, pleasant and full of local color

Wire Puppets in Chaozhou, Guangdong

Wire Puppetry now exists only in Guangdong's Chaozhou, Shantou jieyang and Yaoping, and is known as "Paper Shadow" because it evolved from local shadow puppets. In the late Qing Dynasty, Chaozhou shadow play artists replaced flat figures cut from leather with a rounded figure with a straw torso, papier mache hands, wooden legs and heads molded from clay The fully clothed puppets had pieces of wire attached to their hands and backs to aliow for manipulation. Following the exampie of the Guangdong opera stage craft, puppeteers substituted the glass screen with a backdrop and used simple props such as chairs and tables on the stage. The demand for wire puppet shows increased along with the rise in religious activities. Dawu Township of Chaozhou has been famous for its wide variety of clay puppet heads. It has workshops scattered in the township Supplying puppet heads to customers in Guangdong and abroad.

Chaozhou wire puppets have increased in length from 12 to 16 inches, and the wires have been extended from one foot to 18 inches. The puppeteers either sit or stand on the stage. Each troupe consists of nine people-three puppeteers, three singers and three musicians. The stage which is about ten feet square rises some five feet above the gnund. The puppeteers sit behind the Curtain. In its prime, Chaozhou wire puppetry boasted nearly 100 troupes, the best known being the Yuanxiang. In addition, Chaozhou was home to three small puppet theaters, namely the Wanli, Wanxing and Guanghui. The most famous puppeteers included Xie Baoquan, Xie Xianglin, Aliang, Wu Binquan, Cai jingkun, Lu Jilin and Lin Yaoxiang.the themes of the plays mostly focused on history, novels, and myths. The programs, which were more or less like those of Chaozhou Opera, included well-known items such as The Trial of Guo Huai,Xue Rengui Leads an Expedition Against the East, Lord Bao Meets Empress Dowopr Li,The Red Boy and The Story of the Straw Sandals.Acrobatic stunts such as juggling weapons, wielding cudgels, balancing pots on the head and spinning plates were often performed to enliven the stage atmosphere.

One of the best wire puppet troupes in Chaozhou,the Yuanxiang took part in the First National Puppet Show and Shadow Play Festival held in Beijing in 1955,where they received warm acclaim for their excellent performances and colorful Chaozhou singng Today, wire puppet troupes are still active in the countryside, particularly during festivals.

Rod Puppets in Sichuan

Sichuan puppet shows have long adopted Sichuan Opera and imitate every dctail in actual performance and singing. Puppct troupes in Sichuan each consising of only a few people,are able to tour nearly every corner of the countryside because of their easily portable equipment. Thus,there are many more puppet troupes than Sichuan opera troupes. of the many types of puppets in Sichuan, rod puppets are the most popular.Rod puppets can be divided into the large, medium and small categories in accordance with their structures and style of performance.

Small puppets,40 centimeters in length, are elaborately carved with nimbie limbs and can be used in both wenxi(plays with civil themes dealing with social life)and wuxi(plays consisting mainly of battle scenes with emphasis on acrobatics). Wu Yaoguang, one of the most Outstanding experts in manipulating small puppets, could make puppets vividly portray the moods and emotions of the characters by doing highly complicated movements such as swinging or tossing the long sleeves of clothing, playing with a fan,walking staggeringly and trembling with fear or anger He was most noted for his Song jiang Kills His Mistress and A Test of Love and was highly spoken of by Sergey Obraztsov, the eminent puppeteer from the former Soviet Uniom. In their production of The Magic Lotus Lantern, puppeteers with the Chengdu Puppet and Shadow Play Theater who had inherited the art of manipulation of Wu Yaoguang Successfully evoked the Subtle feelings of the characters with the meaningiul movements of their puppets. A few years ago, the theater altered its puppets by increasing their length to one meter. They successfully introduced the new innovations in the production of The Romance of Conquering the Damon. The medium size type of puppets retain all characteristics of the smalier rod puppets. The theater was awarded for its Nezha at the Sixth Wenhua Awards for New Opera and Drama.

Large rod puppets are mainly found in Yilong County in northern Sichuan. In the past, most puppet troupes performing with large rod puppets consisted of the members of one family. All these troupes had disappeared for one reason or another before the 1950s except the Li Family Troupe. The Li Family Troupe which used puppets crafted by the eminent puppet carver Yang Dai was very popular in northern Sichuan. Yang Dai incorporated the art of the facial make-up of Sichuan opera in order to ensure that each puppet represents a different character In the 1950s,the Li Family Troupejoined the government funded Yilong Puppet Troupe,which was renamed the Nanchong Puppet Troupe in 1986. Large rod puppets from northern Sichuan are about 1.4 meters in length and weigh 4-5 kilograms. Although large, master manipulators can make them perform a number of difficult actions Such as putting on clothes, lighting a candle, drinking tea, kowtowing and wielding weapons. Human actors often play roles in Sichuan puppet shows. They are mostly young children who move Like puppets as required. Representative examples are Stealing the Magic Herbs and The jade Lotus Flower in which puppets and human actors play together. Large rod puppets in Sichuan are so ingeniously cratted and manipulated that one can hardly distinguish them from human actors.(Fig.3-9)

Li Siyuan, a third generation Li family puppeteer, is proficient in manipulating large rod puppets in all roles, especialiy clown roles. His performances are unconstrained yet exquisite, and his puppets are capable of a wide range of tricks. In his production of offering Apologies, the movements he designed for his character Xu Jia such as throwing away its official hat, rubbing its shoulder and trembling vividly depict the character's feac Puppeteers of the younger generation like Ding jianping and Qin Yinlan have also attained a high artistic level. They have been noted for their productions Such as The White Snake, The Mermaid, Eight white Snake The Mermaid Eight lmmortals Cross the Sea and The jade Lotus Flower.

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