SHADOW PUPPETRY is a story-telling technique that dates back to the emperor’s court during the Han dynasty (202BC-220AD). Made with pieces of dyed donkey leather and fine threading, puppets were crafted to play with light, creating colors, silhouettes, and motion to share the rich stories of Chinese culture and history. Music, provided by instruments or voice, was used to accompany the Storyteller’s words, which are told to the audience from behind a paper-partitioned screen, and add to the dynamic expression of the puppets. The spread of this fanciful art occurred as the Mongol empire expanded from the lands of China throughout Asia, Persia, and Turkey. By the 17th century, Shadow puppetry was debuting in France, and by the 1920s, Americans were delighting in stories told through this creative and magical art form.
Modern day shadow puppets have evolved, as artists have so many new materials to manipulate for transparency, color, structure, and movement. Plastics, colored film, cardstock, metals, are all materials that can be used to create the 21st century puppet.
The art of story telling with shadow puppets, however, has not changed too much. While the tales, materials, and music may be reflective of our present-day culture, the charm and beauty of the puppet’s shadow behind the screen still transports the audience to a time past.
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