Monday, April 21, 2008

Shameful Street Spectacle in Chengde

It is sad to say that there are still some shameful street spectacles in China, land where tradition is almost lost.

China is a contradictory country with contradictory actions. Animals (and even humans) don't have the same rights that Western democracies (1) have tried to achieve since many years ago, but they say there are, just they have a different perspective of human and animal rights (?).

Last Saturday I made a trip to the small city of Chengde on the North side of the country, just after I had arrived I saw in front of the train station this street spectacle using animals, three monkeys. As in many countries happened 100 hundreds years ago these ignorant group of men were enjoying a cruelty way to amuse people.

I spent some moments trying to take the face of the "tamer" exposing his state of mind. I had to stop the video because his partner wanted I paid for it and I refused.

This is not the only example I found in Chengde, there was another one (with monkeys as well) on my way to the touristic sight, so it is a regular practice in this part of the country.

It is a pity because in this city I also found some very interesting examples of other street theatre spectacles I was looking for. Nothing is perfect.

(1) China is not the only case, Japan also share this way to entertain people in the street (maybe with less cruelty). About Western countries, it exists, yes (not anymore in the street), and it is still a problem to resolve, but there is also a big movement of consciousness among public in general about animals and spectacle. (thanks for your comment Emmanuel)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Puppet Performance during the Chinese Cultural Revolution Age (1972)

In 1972 Micheangelo Antonioni was invited by the Chinese government (It is said it was Den Xiaoping among them) to make a film about the new China, that China immersed inside its Cultural Revolution. Antonioni filmed whatever his Chinese advisers wanted, whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted; everything was well prepared to make an ideological document of the Maoist era. When the final product was released the government was furious and banned the film (1) .

The documentary is simple but clear and even rebel, showing everything the Chinese government wanted to show but edited in the way the spectator was absolutely able to understand the difficult moment Chinese people were living in those years.

The scene I want to show from the documentary is a puppet performance at Chang'An theatre, a simple stage production with real size puppets imitating the playing of a musical orchestra.

Antonioni opened the camera to the public, showing their faces, their waiting for the performance, and the presence of the people stayed there with the sound of their laugh during the theatrical act. Then, the performance came as an example of the Socialist Realism in Cultural Revolution age, nothing engaged with the traditional way to do Puppet theatre: costume as in the real life, children or teenagers with healthy faces and bodies, showing security and happiness while they were playing.

The acting technique seems very professional and well worked, even if the performance is so simple some of the puppets expresses "life" in their actions; the best example is the girl playing the er-hu (that kind of violin or small cello), she seems (like a real girl) enjoying her performance.

(1) The documentary had its first view for the public inside China in 2005.

If you are interested in using any text, image or video from this Blog, please contact the author writing your e-mail and information in comments. (comments are private)
Gustavo Thomas. Get yours at