Chinese shadow puppetry


Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2009 China Puppet and Shadow Art Society
Chinese shadow puppetry is a form of theatre acted by colourful silhouette figures made from leather or paper, accompanied by music and singing. Manipulated by puppeteers using rods, the figures create the illusion of moving images on a translucent cloth screen illuminated from behind. Many elder shadow puppetry artists can perform dozens of traditional plays, which are orally transmitted or found in written form. They master special techniques such as improvisational singing, falsetto, simultaneous manipulation of several puppets, and the ability to play various musical instruments. Many puppeteers also carve the puppets, which can have between twelve and twenty-four moveable joints. Shadow plays are performed by large troupes with seven to nine performers and smaller troupes of only two to five, primarily for entertainment or religious rituals, weddings and funerals and other special occasions. Some puppeteers are professional, while others are amateurs performing during slack farming seasons. The relevant skills are handed down in families, in troupes, and from master to pupil. Chinese shadow puppetry also passes on information such as cultural history, social beliefs, oral traditions and local customs. It spreads knowledge, promotes cultural values and entertains the community, especially the youth.