|other puppets: Vietnamese Burmese Indonesian|
Taiwanese Puppetry (Budaixi)
Taiwanese puppets show their whole body with hands and feet. They are basically hand puppets, or glove puppets, consisting of a "sack" topped with a painted head, and manipulated with the hands or fingers.
Although puppetry was introduced into China during the Ming dynasty (around 12th century AD) it was only introduced into Taiwan during the Ch'ing dynasty, supposedly by immigrants from Fujian province where it had become more highly developed than elsewhere in China. During this period of more than 200 years it has integrated Taiwanese local cultures and practices and has developed its own nature and become a uniquely Taiwanese cultural style. You can no longer see this kind of hand or glove puppet performance anywhere in China today.
Taiwanese puppetry theatre has become a very distinguished form of performing arts in Taiwan and the puppetry world at large. The costumes are elaborate, but the value of a puppet is generally determined by how many movable parts the face contains. In some cases the face is 4-sided, all 4 sides moving in the same way, and these parts can run to many hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
The five shapes (two eyes, two nostrils, mouth) and three bones (the eyebrow bone, cheekbone, and jawbone) determine the characteristics of the puppet, such as beauty, ugliness, loyalty, craftiness; or the different emotions, such as joy, anger, sorrow and delight.
Today, Taiwanese puppetry theatre is well preserved, developed and appreciated more than before. It is no wonder most Taiwanese people call it "one of our national cultural treasures".
Budaixi troupes are generally requested to perform at processions and festivals held in honour of local deities; auspicious or happy occasions such as weddings, births, and promotions; or fairs held at the site of a temple or shrine, when the faithful converge to worship a deity. The main purpose of Budaixi is to thank and entertain the Gods. It also serves as a popular means of local folk entertainment.
In general, a show needs two performers: the main performer who generally is the chief or director of the troupe is in charge of the whole show, including manipulating main puppets, singing and narrating. The supporting performer manipulates the puppets to coordinate with the main performer, changes the costumes of puppets, and takes care of the stage. The relationship between the main performer and the supporting performer is one of master and apprentice. Frequently, the master trains his sons to succeed him as puppet master.
The puppets perform on a highly decorative stage, accompanied by an orchestra comprising of string and percussion instruments. The main instruments include, Chinese two-stringed violin (erhu), gong (luo), cymbals (ba), drum (gu), castanets (paiban) and a trumpet-like wind instrument (suona). The backstage music is controlled by the drum player. The drummer needs to pay attention to what is going on in the plot and use the drum to conduct the other musicians. They follow the rhythm of the sets. There are generally around 4-5 musicians in charge of the backstage music. The form of music which still accompanies Taiwanese Budaixi, called Pei-kuan, led puppet shows to various innovations in performance techniques. Acrobatics, and smkills like window-jumping, stage movement, and fighting were devised and sometimes peculiar animals were put on stage to attract additional attention.
The stories basically are selected from popular folklore (e.g. "Journey to the West"), historical serial novels (e.g. "The History of Three Nations", or "the List of Sanctified Gods") and the martial arts world (e.g. "The Water Margin"). Popular stories of historical judicial judges were seen as a distinct form of puppet play and were called "Court Record Plays". Recently, hi-tech innovations have popularised sci-fi stories which are shown on cable TV. Although the purists find this new form vulgar, it is just another stage of innovation and development in an art form which has evolved and developed over many hundreds of years.
Some Taiwanese Puppet Characters
The Liberal God of Wealth
The Military God of Wealth