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For centuries, Vietnamese kids and grown-ups alike have been entertained by a unique kind of puppet show —one that is performed on water. The puppeteers stand in chest-deep pool of water, behind a curtain backdrop, and control wooden puppets via poles and strings hidden under the water, while the puppets dance over the water’s surface. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides background music while singers sing the story being acted out by the puppets. The water not only hides the puppet strings and puppeteer movements, it also provides opportunities for effects such as waves and splashes and shimmering lights.

Water puppetry is thought to have developed in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam in the 11th century. The original water puppet shows were held inside rice paddy fields after the harvest to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Later, communal ponds became stages for these impromptu performances, enhancing the widespread development of the art form.


Photo credit: Charles Chan/Flickr

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