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


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 TheJadeLotus Flower in which puppets and human actors play together. Large rod puppets in Sichuan are so ingeniously crafted and manipulated that one can hardly distinguish them from human actors.

Li Siyuan, a third-generation Li family puppeteer, is proficient in manipulating large rod puppets in all roles, including clown roles especially. 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 it's feelings.

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 MermaidEight ImmortalsCross the Sea, and The Jade Lotus Flower.

 String Puppets inQuanzhou

String puppets in Fujian are known as kuileixi and 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 are required. All strings are attached to a control board. The reasonable and strict positioning of the strings leads to nimble and lifelike movements by the puppets.

In the past, string puppet shows were presented on a plain raised platform, 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, supernatural beings, 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 Mountain. It is, in fact, the combination of the string, rod, and glove puppets manipulated by two people instead of one and hence is able to adroitly perform diverse movements.

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