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An experience we will never forget
March 24, 2012

Water puppet show

Water puppet show means a dance of puppets on water that describing how it will take place. The lacquered puppet is controlled by puppeteers through a rod dancing on green water of a pool. Puppeteers hide behind a curtain using techniques that keep everything work smoothly.

The show‘s content is both fabulous legends of Vietnamese people and thing happen in daily life. This  is a traditional performing art in the northern part of Vietnam, mainly in the region of Red River Delta from 11 century.

This show was originally performed at the time of the Lunar New Year celebration, Tet and now you could watch it every day at Thang Long Water Puppet show.



Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is found at No.57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, right across the northeast shore of Hoan Kiem Lake. The theatre has been staging water-puppet shows since 1969, boasts a cast of 136 puppets. While fig wood puppets should last for at least 100 years, daily wear-and tear takes its toll, and the theatre goes through four sets of puppets in a single year. With five shows a day and hardly any time to dry off, it’s no wonder!

The Water Puppet show provides an interesting show and a real feast for the eyes. The puppet is controlled by puppeteers through a rod dancing on green water of a pool. Puppeteers hide behind a curtain using techniques that keep everything work smoothly. With accompanying music and narratives, the show aims to tell a legend or just to depict daily life story in rural Vietnam.

As Teu disappears behind the bamboo blinds, fantastical dragons glide across the gleaming water, phoenixes court and mate, playful unicorns pounce on a ball sending a spray of water across the pond and a king returns a magical sword that helped him defeat his enemies to a giant turtle out on a lake. But the show isn’t all about fantastical legends and mythical beasts; while the repertoire of the Vietnamese water puppet theatre includes 157 stories and legends, a great number of these tales revolve around rural life and the values of honest labour and perseverance.

Just peek into any of Thang Long Theatre’s packed shows and you’ll notice that the audience comprises mostly of tourists because this form of puppetry crosses language barriers with action-packed visuals that appeal to just about everyone. The skits are fast-paced and full of energetic splashing, not to mention detailed and realistic movements, like the cheeky flick of a sleek fish tail and sprightly leap of a frog.

A Brief History...
In the Red River Delta where water is essential to wet rice cultivation, an exceptional puppetry tradition known as mua roi nuoc has emerged. Manipulating a colourful cast of villagers, mythical creatures and legendary characters gracefully in makeshift pavilions on lakes, ponds and flooded paddy fields, skilled puppeteers have been captivating audiences for centuries.

In the 11th century, the Chua Thay Pagoda was built by the sainted Buddhist monk Tu Dao Hanh on the banks of the Long Tri Lake in Sai Son Village, Thach That District of Ha Tay Province. Hailed as a supernatural being and genius, he breathed life into Vietnam’s first water puppets. In the 17th century, a charming water pavilion, Thuy Dinh, was erected on the serene Long Tri Lake near the pagoda and this became the first permanent water puppet pavilion.

Centuries after Tu Dao Hanh’s passing, he is still revered as the father of Vietnamese water puppets and during the Thay Pagoda Festival, held on the third month of the lunar calendar, water puppet shows are staged at Thuy Dinh in honour of his artistic contributions to Vietnamese folk heritage – a heritage that has become one of Hanoi’s major tourist attractions.

(Some parts from Travel3sixty)

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