Thursday, October 5, 2023 10:29 AM Vietnam Time GMT+7 |

Water puppetry – outstanding features of Vietnamese art

Through ages, water puppetry has been ocupied a significant role in the treasure of culture and Fork Art of Vietnam, and this is a unique form of art involved the wetland rice culture of the Red river Delta.
Through ages, water puppetry has been ocupied a significant role in the treasure of culture and Fork Art of Vietnam, and this is a  unique form of art involved the wetland rice culture of the Red river Delta. In addition, water puppetry is the particular form of entertaining that helps the farmers relaxed and release all the tiredness after a strenous working day.
The art of water puppetry is considered to be existing long ago since the reign of Ly Kings and originated from some provinces in the area of the Red river Delta such as Thai Binh or Ha Tay (merged with Hanoi). However, some information and documents indicate that Thang Long water puppetry is nowaday is the specility of Hanoi capital.the documents claim that some villages in the area of Hanoi including Dao Thuy, Thuy Lam, Dong Anh are the cradle of water puppet art in the capital city.

Puppetry consists of different types of puppet shows such as hand puppetry show, rod puppetry show, string puppetry, funeral home puppetry, mask puppetry, flute kite puppetry, toy puppetry,…. However, the most particular type of puppetry is water puppetry because of the special stage and funny and lovely casts who are designed simply. When mentioning the water puppetry art, the first thing to mention is the visual arts or in other word, sculpture. This is considered the most significant factor and played important role and as a mean of transfering the soul of the artists into the performance and to inspire the audiences. The sculpture of this form of art based nothing on any model or patterns but basing on the scripts, so it requires the boundless creativity of the artists.
The stage of water puppetry together with the uniqueness in the performing art and controlling the puppets make this an indispensible spiritual food for a large number of capital citizens. Moreover, this traditional art also attracts the concern of numerous foreign guests, and many traditional water puppetry shows were introduced and performed inand open to the public of many different nations in the world. However, conservating, preserving and developing the “precious pearl” is a great concerning issue and challenges of  the artists who consider this as their life and of the audiences who love this kind of folk art, particularly in the duration of econimy integration.

A work of water puppetry, introduced to the public, is the crystallization of the skillful hands and creativeness. In deed, the water puppetry performances always bring visitors with cheerful laughters and relaxing moments for audiences, though, it just simply to replay the daily activities of the farmers such as grazing buffalos, plowing, fishing or repertoire of fairy dancing or dragon dancing. On the water satge, the wood puppets flexibly move thanks to the controlling of the artists behind the font through the system of strings and rod. Some artists shared: “the difficulty of controlling water puppets is the systems of controller under water, which they cannot see, therefore, it requires much concentration. During a puppet show, there are dozens of strings to control, so they need to remember which one first and which comes next. The weather condition should be moderate to make sure the artists controlling puppets in water will not be cold, moreover, either too swallow or deep is the water degree, it is imposible for performing”.
The puppets are made from wood of fig trees so that the “casts” appear on the water surface. The appearance of the puppets would be funny and cute with two parts – the body and the foot. The body will float on the water surface and the foot is where the controlling system is attached.  Through the controlling system, the artists have to concentrate attentively on their work to ensure the puppets performance suites with the content of the scripts.
Only watching these perfomances, people can feel and comprehense partly the difficulties and hardships that the artists facing. Without love with career, or shortage of the patence, or lack of the date to sacrifice for art of the great puppet artists, it is probably not possible for maintaining and developing such a unique and outstanding form of folk art.

Some water puppet villages in Vietnam
Beside the Central Puppet Theatre and Thang Long Puppet Theatre, there are some well-known puppet villages such as Dao Thuc, Te Tieu, Trang Son, Binh Phu, Thach Xa, Nguyen Xa and Nam Chan.
Outstanding among these areas is Tham Roc puppet village, a Tay minority village in Dinh Hoa district, Thai Nguyen province. The traditional puppetry has been preserved and developed thanks to the Ma Quang family through their 13 generations. Even though experiencing a lot of benefits as well as drawbacks, this traditional work has still been transferred to the morden generations. Tham Roc puppetry is a kind of rod puppetry, with 12 members in a team, one is in charge of controlling, one is in charge of musical instruments, and the others will be supporters. The way the puppets are controlled is different from that in other villages. A part from some puppets controlled by strings or by hands, most puppets are controlled by rods.
Dao Thuc puppetry is a kind of water puppets originated from Dao Thuc village, Thuy Lam commune, Dong Anh district of Hanoi.
At late of Le dynasty, in Dao Thuc village, there was a man named Dao Tuong Cong who became a Doctorate then invited to work for the Le King and Hau Le dynasty. Le King trusted him because of his dedication and enthusiasm so the King decides to grant Mr Dao with the mysteries of the water puppetry which he has brought back his hometown and develop the water puppetry in Dao Xa village.
Dao Thuc water puppetry with some famous performances to represent for the images of both the farmers in the North and the men in the South, with talent and enthusiasm, the puppetry artists could make inanimated puppets the lovely and soulful characters.
Dong Ngu water puppetry
In 2012, in order to preserve and develop the art value of water puppetry performance in Dong Ngu village, Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Bac Ninh province has submited the profile and dossiers to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in order to regconize the village puppetry the national intangible cultural Heritage.

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