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  Created in China>Art Treasures>Chinese Performance Art>Shadow Play and Puppetry
Puppets from Various Places


 Rod Puppets in Sichuan

Sichuan puppet shows have long adoptedSichuan Operaand imitate every detail in actual performance and singing. Puppet troupes in Sichuan, each consisting 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 large, medium and small categories according to their structures and style of performance.

Small puppets, 40 centimeters in length, are elaborately carved with nimble 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 onacrobatics).

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 asswingingor 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 Union.

In their production of The Magic Lotus Lantern, puppeteers with theChengduPuppet and Shadow Play Theater who had inherited Wu Yaoguang's art of manipulation successfully evoked the subtle feelings of the characters with the meaningful movements of their puppets. A few years ago, the theater altered its puppets by increasing the length to one meter. The puppeteers successfully introduced the new innovations in the production of The Romance of Conquering the Demon. The medium-sized puppets retain all the characteristics of the smaller 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. However, all these troupes had disappeared for one reason or another before the 1950s except for 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 Troupe joined the government-funded Yilong Puppet Troupe, which was renamed the Nanchong Puppet Troupe in 1986.

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