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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Smoke, Flames, Taiwanese Puppets Live!

Smoke, sparks, flames, fighting. This is no summer blockbuster action movie; this is Taiwanese puppetry.

Pili, the biggest TV puppetry company in Taiwan, had just put on an outdoor live performance this past week (March 30). A story of good vs. evil was told, and when there’s good and evil in the same story, you know they’ve got to fight. And when they fight, they will fight in style. Without all the cutting, editing, and computer graphics that they normally have, they went back to what they used to do to provide special effects before TV. And if you are familiar with the genre, you know there shall be lots of smoke, lots of lighting effects, lots of sparks, and lots of flames. Here’s a taste.

Now that’s entertainment!

It’s hard to tell what the puppets look like from the footage but here’s close-ups of the two main guys in the fight.

To look at them in action and in different angles, check out their music videos here and here.

In live Taiwanese puppetry (the modern ones anyway), dry ice is often used to create a different atmosphere. Also, while “chi” is invisible in kung-fu, the dry ice smoke is often used as a way to represent the exchange of chi or energy. When there’s a heated battle, sparks are added for effect. Flames can be used to represent powerful moves and heated battles as well. The usage of these things are not strictly defined, nor are they a requirement for these shows, but they certainly add spice and entertainment value to the overall experience.

Of course, there’s the fighting itself. One of the character can be seen using a spear, while the other just fight with his hands. Puppeteers often like to give their characters long weapons like spears and swords to make the fights more stylish. And you know the crowd will always enjoy some good action!


  1. April 7th, 2008 | 2:21 pm

    That was off the hook! I’ve never seen anything quite like that. Many times as I thought over the limitations of live puppetry, I often thought that the grand “epic” battles of the action movies really wouldn’t translate well… Happy to see was completely wrong.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    Nojoy’s last blog post..Unsung Heroes…

  2. April 8th, 2008 | 2:39 am

    There’s indeed some limitations but it’s also part of the raw, unpolished fun. I’m lucky to have the chance to grow up watching this kind of stuff. It definitely inspires me and tells me that there’s lots of possibilities with puppetry and nothing is too crazy.

    And I’ve definitely made up my mind to talk even more about Taiwanese puppetry on this blog, since it’s something that’s really dear to my heart. :-)

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