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Quanzhou puppet show

Updated: 2013-01-10 11:04

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As one of the oldest and rarest among puppet shows in China, the Quanzhou puppet show enjoys a long history of more than 2,000 years.

The puppet used is an inanimate object or representational figure animated or manipulated by an entertainer who is called a puppeteer. It is believed to function as the communication medium between humans and gods. As a result, it has been combined with religious activities since it was born.

Throughout the ages, it has become an indispensable part of peoples’ lives in Quanzhou, even in the Minnan dialect speaking area. It is customary to stage puppet shows to drive away evil forces at events such as weddings, birthdays, and the openings of new buildings. Performing shows after fires, disasters or funerals is also common. It was listed as China's intangible cultural heritage by the Ministry of Culture of China in 2006.

A Quanzhou puppet show uses a kind of marionette, about 70cm tall, consisting of a head, belly, limbs, strings and an operation board to control the strings. The puppet head is engraved out of camphor, linden or willow wood with inner machinery, resulting in a variety of facial expressions. The belly is made of bamboo. Puppet hands differ from each other according to whether they are playing a civil or a military role; the former holding pens while the latter are grasping swords.

Some puppets wear shoes and others are barefoot. Female feet are also different from the males. Sixteen to 32 strings are attached to a puppet's joints so people can control the puppets' movements from the operation board, which is held about one meter above the puppet. Sometimes the strings extend as long as two meters, providing more space for performance, but requiring a higher level of skills.

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