About 2,000 years before people invented television, Chinese people were enthralled watching shadow puppets darting across screens and reenacting ancient legends.
Stories are about heroes against evil, love stories, or supernatural characters.
High-pitched and musical plays, making shadow puppets boldly act out local folk tales.
Long Dong shadow puppets in southwestern Gansu province and Shaanxi and Shanxi in northwest China have their own characteristics.
The shape of the shadow puppetry is beautiful, the lines are general, and the sculpture is sophisticated.
The material for making shadow puppets is mainly medium-thick, flexible, and durable young black bull skin.
After the hide has been shaved and dried, it looks clear and transparent and can be used to make a puppet.
First, sketch the character’s figure on dry hide, then engrave it with knives of various sizes.
After it has been carved and colored, people iron it. Ironing is the most crucial step and also the most difficult.
Next, add one more pigment and then dry it. It’s then mounted into puppets as required, so puppet masters can control them to perform.
Some people believe that this art was invented to entertain the emperor after the queen’s death so that he could always see the silhouette of his wife.
Since then, it quickly became popular entertainment among the ruling circles and was performed in palaces to represent family, fortune, and power.
After that, shadow puppetry gradually spread to cities and rural areas. The artists performed it at weddings, religious festivals, or funerals.
But it was banned half a century ago during the decade-long Cultural Revolution because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) feared it couldn’t control the messaging.
The ancient culture of shadow puppetry accidentally became a part of “The Four Olds” of the Cultural Revolution.
The Four Olds: “Old ideas, old culture, old customs, old habits.”
Smash the old world; the CCP wants people to take the party as the center.
However, It had something of a comeback in the 1980s and, in 2011, was included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Today’s puppetry masters are very worried about the future of shadow puppetry despite its centuries-old existence. As a result, many of them have switched careers in recent years.