Chinese Shadow Puppets in Xi'an

Shadow Puppet Origin and Legend

Chinese shadow puppets originated in Xi'an. Shadow puppets are jointed puppets made of a thin donkey or cowhide. They are famous throughout China, and versions of them can be found in many parts of the country. Watching the play is quite an experience of your Xi'an tours.

Shadow puppets were invented more than 2,000 years ago in the capital Changan (the historic name of Xi'an), during the rule 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 the shadow puppetry soon became very popular in Changan City (Xi'an).

Xi'an Shadow Puppets Play

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

During the 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. 

A shadow puppet play can be arranged by request. Contact us for a tailor-made China tour.

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