I've walked past the tiny stage within a stage many times but never stopped to check Chinese puppetry out till now. Before I went and got my equipment, I did my usual sought permission to photograph, and check performance times since they aren't advertized and are tide to prayer schedules at the Taoists temples.
I did a little Internet research into the history of Chinese puppetry just to give some perspective. There are three forms of Chinese pupperty - the marionette theater, the shadow theater, and the glove theater. Of the three, marionette theater is the oldest and began as early as the the Sung dynasty in the tenth century AD. String marionettes are the oldest and most common marionette puppet.They are performed to drive evil spirits away or thank the gods. Traditionally, marionette performances are presented on the birthday of the Jade Emperor and that of the Three Great Emperors.
I went in the day as it was much easier to photograph things in natural light without the glare of naked bulbs. It also gave me a chance to watch the action backstage - unpacking, dressing the puppets with extreme care. The cast of puppet characters are then hung up ready for the performance. For those who wonder if the stories acted out in the puppetry performance is any different from those of the wayang - the answer is no. On the day I was there they were performing Mulan.
The ladies who unpacked and dressed the puppets were also the performers. They operated the string puppets and gave them their voices. Two musicians provided the music that went with the performance that was unhurried.
|Performing for only for the gods as there was no audience.|
|Hand work to bring the puppets to live.|