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

Awesome Documentary on Taiwanese Puppets

I’ve been looking for documentaries on Taiwanese puppets to show my readers, but unfortunately, most of them are in Chinese/Taiwanese (understandably so), or they are in English but barely scratched the surface. However, this one is in English and covered many different stages and aspects of this art. I think it would be awesome to share here.

The documentary is actually on Huang Hai-dai (黃海岱), who is the godfather of Taiwanese puppetry, pretty much. The man lived to be 107, and it’s no exaggeration to say the story of his life is the story of the evolution of Taiwanese puppetry. He was an innovative story teller who came up with Taiwan’s most well-known puppet character, Shih Yian-Wen (史艷文), who was an intellectual and scholar who became a martial arts hero after being oppressed by the corrupt government. The character became very popular at his stage performances, and then when TV came around, the puppet master’s son Huang Jun-Xiong (黃俊雄) brought it to TV. The show received a 97% rating at its peak (granted, there were only three channels at the time, but it was still pretty amazing). And then Huang Hai-Dai’s grand children (Huang Jun-Xiong’s sons) got into the VHS (now DVD) rental market with their popular series, Pili (霹靂) and even have their own TV channel. So the story of this family is a good chunk of Taiwanese puppetry.

Anyway, enough of that. Take a look of what Taiwanese puppetry look like. I hope it’s not too confusing to look at, because Taiwanese puppetry is constantly evolving with time. The traditional puppets are the size of the palm, and each puppet can be manipulated with one hand, while the new TV puppets are much taller and require two hands to perform. And then there’s a bunch of different sizes in between too. So in the video, you will see different varieties of Taiwanese puppets, though they all derive from the same tradition.

Okay, I talked too much. I am going to write about these things later anyway, so why do it now? Here are the videos. They cut it into four segments but really, it’s only about 18 minutes. Enjoy! (I know you’ll enjoy this, Naomi. By the way, the chunk that has the most details about mechanism and manipulation is in the last video.)

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