Water puppet is one of the most theatrical arts that you can only find in Vietnam.
Water puppet overview
For locals, it occupies an important position in the heart of Vietnamese people, as a meaningful tradition taking root from the ancient civilization.
Water puppet is a type of theatrical folk art, a unique tradition in Vietnamese agricultural civilization.
Agricultural work expressing through water puppet
It was born over 1000 years ago, in Hong delta area. This performance often occurs in festivals, Tet holiday. Water puppet is considered as a special immaterial culture of the country.
Water puppet show developed at a peak in Ly and Tran Dynasties. The only remaining object proving this fact is the stele “Sùng Thiện Diên Linh tự tháp” in 1121, which engraved that there is a water puppet performance to celebrate for King Ly Nhan Tong.
It is unique creativity of people living in Hong delta area, formed based upon the work of irrigation. Through the story, the audience can feel and sense the various aspect of a festival in the countryside, express some simple dream about life.
Among idyllic nature, we have a chance to contemplate the art including green land covered by trees, immense water surface, blue sky with clouds, and red roof tiles symbolizing for Vietnamese architecture. That’s the unique combination of art, nature, and people.
Before officially becoming theatrical art, water puppet was a popular activity scattering most of the villages, nourished by villagers’ enthusiasm.
This activity attached to village culture, on one side to worship gods, in another side to create the welcoming atmosphere for tourists, also an exciting festival for villagers.
Unlike other types, water puppet has a characteristic feature: using water surface to be the stage in which puppets perform. Puppet house is built in the middle of pond or lake, with proportional architecture, symbolizing for the rooftop of pagodas, temples in the countryside.
The space in front of puppet house is the stage, only totally completes in the show.
The puppet is products of folk wood-sculpture art, realistic, simple, ardent and lyrical. Its figure is often described as cheerful, humorous, highly symbolic.
The most typical character is “chu Teu”, humorous and optimistic. Teu is the incarnation of a strong, good-natured, rustic Vietnamese farmer, who is a story-teller in festivals. His role is to open festivals, introduce shows and announce some events occurring. This character can be sarcastic to anyone or any event.
The more perfect puppets are, the more helpful it is for improving controlling technique, also expressing abilities.
Controlling technique in water puppet is highly respected, making every single movement of puppets in the show. This is a key value of this art.
Upon experiences and creative ability, artists have made many spectacular performances with various and diversified movements. The control is hidden under water, using water to make movements, surprising the audience with marvelous scenes.
Backstage of performance
The talent of artists is that they show us joy, honesty, gentleness, positivity, natural aspects of folk art, the virtue of people.
In the past, water puppet performed outdoor, so music was often loud to keep the rhythm and stir up the atmosphere.
People use many traditional instruments to raise an uproar, rosing both audience and artists.
Orchestra in the water puppet
Artists control puppets based on music, from gentle to dynamic, to connect performances together.