Chinese Craft – Shadow play

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Shadow Puppets, also known as “shadow play” or “light shadow play”, is a kind of folk drama that uses animal skins or cardboard silhouettes to perform stories. During the performance, the artists are behind the white curtain, while manipulating the movie man, while telling the story with popular local tunes, at the same time, it is accompanied by percussion instruments and string music, which has a strong local flavor. Its popularity is extremely wide, and various shadow puppets are formed due to the different voices performed in various places.
Shadow puppetry is an ancient traditional Chinese folk art. Old Beijingers call it a “donkey shadow puppet”. According to historical records, shadow play began in the Western Han Dynasty, flourished in the Tang Dynasty, flourished in the Qing Dynasty, and spread to West Asia and Europe during the Yuan Dynasty. It can be said to have a long history and a long history.
In 2011, Chinese shadow puppets were selected as the representative list of human intangible cultural heritage.
In December 2018, the General Office of the Ministry of Education announced that the Shanghai Theatre Academy was a base for the inheritance of the Chinese outstanding traditional culture of shadow puppetry.

Performance form

Shadow puppet play, formerly known as “shadow play” or “Deng shadow play”, is a kind of folk play that uses light sources such as candles or burning alcohol to illuminate animal skins or cardboard silhouettes to perform stories. During the performance, artists behind the white curtain, while manipulating opera characters, sang stories in popular local tunes (sometimes in dialects), accompanied by percussion instruments and string music, with a strong rustic flavor. In rural areas such as Henan, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu Tianshui, this unpretentious Han folk art form is very popular.
“Shadow play” is a general term for products of shadow play and shadow play figures (including scenes, props, and scenery). Shadow puppetry is a dramatic form that allows the audience to watch a flat puppet show through a white curtain to achieve an artistic effect; the flat puppets and scenes in the shadow puppetry are usually handmade, carved, and painted by folk artists. Products so-called shadow puppets. In the past when there were no movies or TV, shadow puppet shows were one of the most popular folk entertainment activities.

Historical origin

The shadow puppet show has a history of more than 2,000 years. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty’s beloved concubine Mrs. Li died of an illness. Emperor Wu’s longing and trance looked awkward and ignored the affairs of the state. The minister Li Shaoweng arrived at the door one day, and when Lu met a child playing with a doll in his hand, the shadow reflected on the ground was vivid. Li Shaoweng’s heart moved. He cut out an image of Mrs. Li from cotton and silk, painted them with color, and installed wooden poles on his hands and feet. Enclose the square curtain at night, put up lights, and invite the emperor to sit down and watch. Emperor Wu looked at Long Yan Dayue and couldn’t put it down. This love story written in ” Hanshu ” is considered to be the earliest origin of shadow puppetry.
Since the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, the art of Chinese shadow puppetry has been introduced to Persia (Iran), Arabia, Turkey, Siam (Thailand), Myanmar, the Malay Archipelago, Japan, Britain, France, and France. Germany, Italy, Russia, and other Asian and European countries.
In the third year of Emperor Wuzong Zhengde Wuchen of the Ming Dynasty (1508), Beijing held a hundred opera conventions, and shadow puppets participated in the performance. It is also rumored that the shadow puppetry first spread from Lanzhou and Huating from Lanzhou and Huating to Zhuozhou, Hebei, and then to the rural areas of western Beijing and northern suburbs, and then entered the city and formed two factions in the east and the west.
From the entry of the people of the Qing Dynasty to the beginning of the Republic of China, the art of shadow puppetry in China developed to its heyday. At that time, many squires of the Wang family in the official mansion were proud of asking famous teachers to carve filmmakers, stocking elaborate film boxes, and private film classes. In folk villages and towns, shadow puppet theater groups abound, and it is not surprising that there are twenty or thirty shadow puppet theaters in one township and one city. Regardless of the festivals, happy harvests, prayers for blessings, wedding banquets, or birthday celebrations, it is indispensable to set up a stage to sing and sing. Even the play (serial play) has to be performed all night long or for ten days and a half months in a row. A temple fair can have several film troupes set up a stage to sing and sing shadows. It is very lively and you can imagine its prosperity.
Beijing shadow puppetry has become very popular in Qing Dynasty. In addition to being popular among farmers and citizens, he also entered the palace. During the Kangxi period, there were eight officials in the Prince of Li’s Mansion who were specializing in a movie theater. During the Jiaqing period, the shadow puppet class will also perform in the house on festive days such as the New Year. At that time, the Beijing film troupe played puppets during the day and sang film operas in the hall at night. Many Peking opera actors also participated in the film troupe performances.
In the late Qing Dynasty, some local government officials were afraid of gatherings in the night venues of shadow puppets, so they banned performing shadow puppets and even arrested shadow puppet artists. The shadow puppet artist was also implicated in the White Lotus Uprising in the late Qing Dynasty and was confiscated on the charge of “Xuan Lan Bandit”. Before and after the Japanese invasion, due to social turmoil and years of wars, the people were not living, which caused the shadow puppet industry to wither and collapse.
After 1949, the remaining shadow puppet troupes and artists across the country began to be active again. Since 1955, they have organized shadow puppet shows at the national, provincial, and municipal levels, and sent groups to visit abroad for performances and cultural and artistic exchanges. Results. But by the time of the “Cultural Revolution”, the shadow puppet art once again suffered from the bad luck of “breaking the four olds”, and its vitality was greatly injured ever since.


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