Shadow Puppet Play

Shadow Puppet Origin and Legend

Chinese shadow puppets originated in Xi'an. Shadow puppets are joint puppets made of thin donkeys or cowhides. They are famous throughout China and versions of them can be found in many parts of the country.

Shadow puppets were invented more than 2,000 years ago in the capital Changan (the historic name of Xian) during the ruling of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty. Chinese legends tell that the first shadow puppet was made to cheer up the Emperor as he was deeply saddened by the death of his favorite concubine, and lost interest in his kingdom. A minister was inspired by the shadows cast by dolls as children played, and put up a play of vivid shadow images created by puppets cut by donkey skin. The Emperor was cheered up, and shadow puppetry soon became very popular in Changan City (Xian).

Puppet Play of Monkey KingPuppet Play of Monkey King

Xi'an Shadow Puppets Play

Since the Tang Dynasties (618 BC - 907 BC), Shadow puppetry became a sophisticated art in China and wins the heart of people of all social statues with its lingering music, exquisite sculpture, brick color, and lively performance.

During shadow puppet play, the puppets are controlled with thin sticks similar to chopsticks. They are moved behind a screen with a light behind them. The shadows of the puppets are shown on the screen and can be seen by the audience. A puppet play often shows Chinese legends, battles, and mythological creatures. A small band of musicians is accompanied during the play.

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