Vietnam Travel Inquiry

Water puppet show

Updated: 17:20 - 10/05/2018
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Water puppet shows are thought to have originated around the Red River Delta in North Vietnam sometime in the 11th century. The first Vietnamese puppet shows weren't just for the entertainment of villagers – the shows were thought to keep the spirits entertained enough that they would not cause mischief.
Simple stages were constructed around flooded rice paddies; puppeteers regularly suffered from leech bites and other problems from standing in the murky water for so long.
Water puppet shows haven't changed much since those early years; typical themes are deeply rooted in rural traditions such as planting rice, fishing, and village folklore.
The secret of how water puppet shows work has been kept quiet for centuries. The puppeteers even have their own dialect and codewords to prevent someone from overhearing talk of a particular technique.
Trying to figure out exactly how puppeteers can control the intricate movements blindly is part of the magic of each water puppet show. Great shows of skill include passing objects from puppet to puppet and other coordinated movements which have to be done by instinct rather than sight.
The musicians providing voices for the show – who, unlike the puppeteers, can see the puppets and their movements – sometimes shout codewords to warn the puppeteers when a puppet is not where it should be.

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