Water puppet is a typical form of Vietnamese art, which has existed for more than 1000 years. In many guide books in Vietnam, people said that “Not watching a performance of water puppetry means not visiting Vietnam yet.” And it is definitely true that most visitors to Vietnam should try to watch a performance of water puppetry at least once.
In this article, Indochina Junk will show you 5 interesting things about this kind of Vietnamese art form.
In the past, water puppetry once served for the King’s family and ancient Vietnamese aristocracy amusement.
Until the 11th century, it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Nowadays, water puppetry is widely performed in big modern theaters or in some special stages for conservation and preservation Vietnamese traditions.
Water Puppetry is full of joys, lighting and colors and surprises for the audience.
It is one of Vietnamese tradition that referred to Vietnamese traditions by means of water puppets, like daily life of Vietnamese farmers (cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes…), communal entertainment (swimming contest, dragon dancing…), or historical legends. It tells of daily living in rural Vietnam and Vietnamese folk tales that are told by grandparents to their grandchildren.
A water puppet show is performed in a pool of water as the stage of the puppets.
The water puppets are made of lacquered wood and designed by the artists. They also have their own names, which represents for their characters in real life, such as: Uncle Teu (represented for a young, healthy and poor farmer), Dragons (represented for Vietnamese spirits), Fairies, Fox, Ducks, etc. They all can dance and play a lot of interesting items accompanied by animated music and singing.
The puppets are controlled by no more than eight puppeteers hiding behind a bamboo screen.
The puppets stand on a round wooden plate which can rotate around it horizontal. The plate is linked with a long pole and the puppeteers will use large rods to support the puppets moving. You will see no puppeteers, no machines or instruments, and even no controlling poles. You only watch the puppets on a water surface.
Where you can watch a real water puppet show in Vietnam?
If you’re visiting big cities in Vietnam
You can buy tickets, then enjoy water puppetry in some big theatres, such as Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi, The Vietnam Puppetry Theatre, Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre in Saigon, etc.
Or you can experience water puppet show in some special places.
It can be performed originally in a Vietnamese village or in some museum, such as: Yen Duc Village in Quang Ninh Province, The Museum of Vietnamese History in Saigon, etc. It may not as professional and sparkling as in modern theatres but it revives original art and culture.