A Glimpse of China china's historic art forms


Shadow puppet made from leather skins

Known as the forerunner to modern movies, the term shadow play might bring to mind some kind of an intriguing ritual practiced by overzealous goths or some pre-teen wiccans, well, of course, there’s no such thing. Instead Shadow Play, also known as Shadow Puppetry, is a kind of Chinese ancient opera, which uses flat figures (shadow puppets) to create the impression of moving humans. Shadow puppets are cut-out figures which are held between a source of light and a translucent screen. The cut-out shapes of the puppets sometimes include translucent color or other types of detailing. Various effects can be achieved by moving both the puppets and the light source. During a shadow play, puppeteers hide themselves behind a white curtain and move stick-mounted puppets to make the figures appear to walk, dance, fight, nod and laugh, while also narrating the story through folk song. Performances are generally accompanied by musicians playing drums and stringed instruments.

Photo Credits to: Pierre Patau

Shadow puppetry has a long history. Ancient Chinese historical records show that shadow plays were originally created by a Chinese Taoist during the Han Dynasty (202 B.C. to 220 A.D.) to console the heartbroken Emperor Wu, who had lost one of his imperial concubines. The Taoist made a stone image of the concubine and put it in a tent by a burning candle. The shadow cast looked like his loved one and helped his sadness faded away. Over the next two thousand years, the stone figures gradually became cowhide ones, and the tents were turned into curtains. Performers then added drum sounds and Chinese opera to the movement of the figures, and the shadow play was born.

Shadow leather puppets coated with oil and cut into the necessary patterns

With the invention of modern entertainment alternatives such as television and the cinema, it's safe to say that the art form of storytelling in China is still practiced today. One particular hub is the historical Jinli Street in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province, where shadow players are joined together to be able to share the magic of shadow puppetry to locals and tourists.

May 13, 2012, Zhou, a folk artist, has devoted himself to shadow play for dozens of years. This is one of his street performance on the historical Jinli Street in Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.


Photo Credits to: Pierre Patau

The tradition is a far cry from the contemporary use of the term “peep show” to refer to pornographic material viewed through slits. Its purer origins can be traced back to 17th-century Europe, when “peep boxes,” also called “raree shows,” created the illusion of three dimensions by manipulating the perspective.

Photo Credits to: Pierre Patau

The Chinese peep show emerged as a popular folk entertainment in the 19th century. In the north of the country, it’s known as layangpian, or literally “pulling Western picture cards.” In the south, it’s called xiyangjing, or “the Western lens.”

In a peep show, a small amount of money would get child a peak through on of the cabinet’s holes, revealing a world they never knew.

If you want to know more about these ancient Chinese art forms, you can visit these sites:



http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-04/24/c_136232521.htm http://www.macauart.net/News/ContentE.asp?region=C&id=168824 http://www.chinatraveldesigner.com/travel-guide/culture/chinese-opera/shadow-play.htmhttp://www.shanghaidaily.com/feature/art-and-culture/Though-antiquated-the-peep-show-still-entertains/shdaily.shtml

Some photo and video credits goes to Mr. Pierre Patau (Director of Dubai Moving Image Museum)

Created By
LJ Merlin


Pierre Patau / Google / Youtube

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