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Copyright 2001-7 by Sue Brown & Dr.
– Marionette Capital of China!
Copyright 2001-7 by Sue Brown & Dr. BillOrder Books
– Marionette Capital of China!
Want to buy Quanzhou Puppets, or arrange
a Marionette Performance? Click
Here to visit the factory!
International Puppet Festivals Quanzhou was selected to host the International Puppet Festivals in 1986, 1990 and 2000 for one good reason: this ancient center of commerce, philosophy and religion is also the home of Chinese marionette!
Of course, Quanzhou has many unique crafts, including exquisite paper lanterns, bamboo weaving, porcelain, wood sculpture, tree root carving, paper weaving, lacquer ware, clay sculptures, miniature flour carvings, and 1700 years of Hui’an stone carving, but the icing on the cultural cake is puppets, which stand camphor heads and shoulders above the rest.
The Quanzhou Marionette Troupe
has thrilled audiences in over 30 countries and regions, including performances
in London’s Royal Festival Hall. Over 30 puppeteers manipulate the
puppets while singing to the background
of a full Chinese orchestra. Unfortunately, it’s hard to catch their
acts at home, but you can arrange a once-in-a-lifetime command performance
for only 2,000 Yuan. Contact the Vice Director of Performers, Mr. Xia
Rong Feng, at 237-5497 Mobile Phone: 13959798518 He can also arrange for
a tour of the marvelous Puppet Troupe’s museum.
These miraculous marionettes have more strings attached than a henpecked husband. When deftly wielded by a master puppeteer, 14 to 36 strings bring the wooden folk to life as they strut and fret with abandon across intricate Chinese stages.
Unlike Western puppeteers, who work mainly with the control, Chinese puppeteers also manipulate groups of strings with their fingers. The longer the strings (up to 2 meters!), the more difficult to operate, but the more expressive the puppets can become as they portray men and women of all ages and professions—or even spirits or wild animals.
Puppets make love and war, bicker and barter, dance, jog and somersault. Their deft hands even retrieve objects from the stage floor! Maybe their lips move too, because Jimmy sure fell for this fellow (who robs cradles too). But everything hinges on puppeteers like Mr. Xia Rong Feng, Quanzhou Puppet Troupe’s Vice Director of Performers (who kindly gave us a tour and a delightful demonstration).
Puppeteers, who often begin training as children, may take 5 years to learn the basics, and over 20 years to completely master the 30+ strings! The sheer complexity of marionettes is amazing. They have a torso, limbs, strings and a hollow wooden head (usually camphor or willow) with internal mechanisms to move the lips and eyes. They have civilian to hold pens and cups or swing fans, and military hands to brandish swords, spears, and other weapons. There are even three types of feet: bare, booted, and womanly.
No wonder modern youth aren’t keen on devoting their
lives to mastering puppetry, and the camphor creatures are getting more
complex by the
In “Taming the Monkey,”
the simian puppet monkeys
about doing everything from riding a bicycle to playing a guitar. In “Drunken
Zhong Kui,” Kui fails the imperial examination simply because he
is so ugly. After he commits suicide, the King of Hell appoints him “Master
demon chaser,” but he's so overwhelmed by the number of wicked demons
and ghosts that he turns to drink. In the end he goes on the wagon, and
devotes himself to an eternal battle against wickedness. It’s a
hell of a story.
Wang Yique spends up to half a month carving a head with
exaggerated or distorted features that can be seen from a distance. Some
puppets have four heads, 4 mouths and 8 eyes—all controllable by
Boxer Rebellion? Our old friend Dave Hollinger (well, he's not that old--or at least not as old as he looks) was delighted with the boxing hand puppets sold on Gulangyu Island! I even bought a pair myself (at 50 cents each, why not?). As I played with them, one Chinese asked which would win, Bush or Saddam. But I refused to answer, lest I get "caught between Iraq and a hard place." (though the president did look a bit Bius
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Last Updated: May 2007 Back to Top