Monday, May 7, 2007

Wuzhen (II): A Chinese Shadow Puppet experience

Wuzhen Dongzha has a special spectacle, a Shadow Puppet Theatre. The small company works with traditional chinese stories, music and technique to handle puppets, and of course traditional Shadow puppets made from leather. Even though the performances are mostly shorter than usual, it’s enough to ensure their enjoyment.

That day of March I went to Dongzha, the village was pretty packed with hundreds of children from nearby schools (and of course tourists), so you can imagine how I felt when I tried to get in the small theatre. It was so crowded that I prefered to wait for the next performance, then an employee told me I could see the performance from behind the stage if I wanted, and of course I did and I recorded the whole 5-minute play back stage.

The experience was very interesting: old musicians playing traditional instruments, only one puppeteer (a young woman) with her assistance, and those beautiful puppets of course. It seemed that day they expected hundreds of children so they prepared a simple fight-scene between the Monkey King and other mythological warriors, showing how the Monkey King was able to change himself into anyhting he wanted.

After watching from behind the stage, I could watch the performance as any other spectator, and of course I recorded the whole play as well.

The wonderful experience aside, I think it was a unique opportunity to see how one Shadow Puppet performance is done facing the stage and behind it, to study it or simply to enjoy this traditional theatrical culture from two different points of view.


  1. i was wondering if you could suggest a place to go see the shadow puppets in china. I am planning a short trip to china in the beg of dec. I would like to spend 3-4 days to see the puppets. any hints would help. thank you

  2. Hello Gustavo Thomas
    my name is Ginat and I am an Israely, a teacher, doing puppet-art with children. I also am a part-time shadow-puppets artist.
    I was fascinated by the chineese shadows you have photographed and I thank you so much for letting me have the possibillity to see it and anjoy. Thank you.
    And this is my URL :

  3. Hello Gustavo Thomas
    I wanted to thank you so much for your videos on U Tube of the chineese shadow theatre by Schanchai.It's amazing. I'm a part-time shadow-puppets artist.
    My URL:

  4. Good Afternoon!!! is one of the most outstanding resourceful websites of its kind. I take advantage of reading it every day. I will be back.

  5. Many thanks for posting these videos! I am working on a book about Pauline Benton, the American founder of the Red Gate Shadow Players in NYC, who learned to be a shadow master from some of the last remaining great masters in 1920's and 1930's Beijing. If you have filmed any other shows I hope you will post them. As with Pauline, I am as fascinated by the view from backstage as from the front!

    All best - Grant Hayter-Menzies

  6. Thanks all for those comments.
    Of course there are more videos and posts about Chinese Shadows Theatre and from many other countries in Asia.
    After some problems with Youtube (which cancelled my account two weeks ago) I've had to re-structure my videos and for some time many will appear with an annoying notice about copyright issues, step by step I'll re-uploading them.

    Thank again.


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