Chinese Shadow Puppetry: Small light and Shadow Reflect the Big World


Chinese shadow puppetry is an art form integrating light and shadow, art, sculpture, music, singing and performance. Shadow puppeteers perform with figures or animals carved from animal skins, cardboard and plastic sheets behind a white curtain illuminated by lights, accompanied by music, singing and storylines. The repertoire and singing of shadow puppetry and local operas often interact with each other. Shadow puppetry is a combination of singing and manipulating of artists.

In the long history of more than one thousand years, shadow puppetry has gradually spread across more than half of China, forming dozens of categories of different regions and different characteristics. With the exchanges between land and sea along the Silk Road, Chinese shadow puppets were introduced to Japan, Arabia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other countries and regions. According to a legend that the great German poet Goethe once used Chinese shadow puppetry to celebrate his birthday in the 18th century. Chinese shadow play has a long history. Its light source was originally an oil lamp and steam lamp and then was changed to an electric lamp. Since then, with the changes of the times, the props and performance forms of shadow puppets have also undergone many changes and developments, such as imitating the rising fire of cooking and the vivid looking into mirrors, which are especially close to life. Shadow-window curtain has been extended from the past small six feet to ten meters now; People in charge of performance have been added from one or two people to a dozen; The lights are also added from a few lights in the past to the current array of lights.

Through the inheritance and spread of generations of shadow play artists, shadow play has become a form of art performance with national characteristics and full of local flavor in China. Because it is in line with the aesthetic taste of the people and it is deeply loved by the public, Chinese shadow puppets often express culture, history, folk customs and other content, to tell Chinese stories, demonstrate Chinese wisdom, promote Chinese spirit and highlight Chinese strength, and to make important contributions to the promotion and dissemination of Chinese culture and international cultural exchanges.

Translator: WANG Yiwen

Reviewer: BAO Minmin