Vietnamese water puppet show: History
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Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique folk art that originated a thousand years ago during the Ly dynasty. Villagers in the Red River delta and other rice-growing regions in Northern Vietnam staged water puppet performances to celebrate the end of the rice harvest, religious festivals, and other important occasions.
Rice, the main staple of the Vietnamese diet, grows in a water paddy. The original water puppet festivals were literally held inside a rice paddy, with a pagoda built on top to hide the puppeteers who stand in the waist-deep water. The water acts as the stage for the puppets, and as a symbolic link to the rice harvest. It also hides the puppet strings and puppeteer movements, improves the musical and vocal acoustics, and provides a shimmering lighting effect.
A water puppet show depicts the daily activities in Vietnamese rural life as well as important historical events and ancient legends. Each water puppet is hand-carved and given five layers of lacquer paint to protect the puppets from the water and to add vital colors to the performance.
In the Mekong River delta, farmers created this art form during the flood season. The Thang Long water puppets theater, Vietnam’s premier international troupe has inherited, preserved and performed this ancient art.
Founded in 1969, the theater has since performed throughout the world. The theater has since participated in folk art festivals in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Spain, France and Italy.
We are now honored to introduce you to this precious Vietnamese art.