About water puppetry in Vietnam
Water puppetry is a form of folk arts originating in the Red River Delta in the north of Vietnam, dating back in the 11th century. Many town and villages in Vietnam have communal ponds that are perfect stages for these impromptu performances, enhancing the widespread development of the art form. Presently, water puppetry is showed in a pool of water with the water surface being the stage.
Puppets are made of wood and then lacquered to be watertight and endurable. During performances, puppets are controlled via a pole-and string apparatus hidden under the water surface by puppeteers standing in waist-deep water behind the stage. While puppets play their roles according to the direction of puppeteers, singers of Cheo (a kind of traditional theater in Vietnam) sing songs to tell the story in words.
The theme of the play concentrates on the daily life of rural people and folklores that are imparted from generation to generation, not mention to stories of legends and national history. Above all, water puppetry created a relaxing space for rural citizens in the past; both watching and playing water puppetry was a good way for the local to entertain, escaping from their daily worries and hardworking life.
Through water puppetry plays, rural people also expressed their desire for a better life of prosperity and happiness. In current times, water puppetry has become a popular form of entertainment, especially for local children and foreigners who want to discover more about Vietnamese folk culture. Water puppetry is now frequently performed in puppet theaters in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and it is regret if you miss the chance to enjoy it.
Where to watch
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street, Hanoi.
$3-5/person, purchased at doors
Hanoi Museum of Ethnology
Nguyen Van Huyen, Hanoi
Included in entrance fee.