Qingxu Temple in Pingyao county, which holds 28 sets of puppets. [Photo/pingyao.gov.cn]
Pingyao county, in Shanxi province has many cultural heritage sites and, after years of preservation work, has been able to save many endangered relics, with 128 items, four at the national level, and 16 at the provincial level under its protection.
The county culture bureau reports that another 15 will be added to the list this year and Pingyao ranks higher than most other areas in the province in culture projects but this work requires a lot of effort from the general public, because some items are not easy to recognize. So, culture bodies in the county have held many campaigns over the years to improve people's awareness of their cultural inheritance.
The county draws up a detailed list of its cultural heritage and one recent goal has been to accelerate work on some endangered sites and have more campaigns about them and documentaries on them so as to benefit more from them.
One key project is the puppet drama that dates back to the start of the last century, during the Qing Dynasty. Puppet models were first made from a paper cut by Xu Liting, a recognized Pingyao master, who created 36 puppet images and 36 matching yarn sets, which were exhibited for festive occasions. Today, 28 of the 36 puppet figures still exist and are kept in the Qingxu Temple, with the title of the individual drama explained on the frame of the set.
The sets are 70 centimeters high, and the puppets 50 cm, with figures that are vivid. This puppet drama is important for the study of traditional Chinese folk drama.