Kaohsiung Museum of shadow puppet
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After its conquest by Thailand in 1431, Thai puppetry was brought to Cambodia, leading to the development of Cambodian puppetry. However, shadow puppetry seems to be the only available type of puppetry in Cambodia. Similar to that of Thailand, Cambodian shadow puppetry is also divided into large and small shadow plays.

Puppets for large-scale shadow plays are made of cow leather with images deeply influenced by the Apsara relief of Angkor Wat. There are five classes of characters in these plays: princes and princesses, ghosts and monsters, deities and natural spirits, the monkey god, and secondary characters such as peasants and ascetics. Troupes usually consist of 20 people, including narrators, performers, and musicians. The major play is the Cambodian version of “The Ramayana” and can be performed consecutively for several days. The limbs of the puppets for the small shadow puppet play can be manipulated by thin attached rods. Performers often spontaneously interweave the famous Indian epic with current issues, historic legends and stories of nobility.

Features of Shadow Puppets Flash


Map of Thailand
Now, let’s go to Thailand to take a look at its shadow puppets.
Nang yai shadow puppet
We have to do it geographically by first understanding Thailand’s Shadow puppets. Thailand’s puppet theater originated from India, both shadow puppets and the hun krabok. Thai shadow puppets are classified based on the size of the puppets as large or “nang yai” and small, or “nang talung.” Nang yai used to be restricted to the imperial palaces and has now gradually lost its popularity. Nang talung is still popular in the Pattalung region. Nang talung is known as nang klang wan when performed during daytime when brighter colors are used. In the evening performances, called nang klang kun, colors are more subdued. Thai shadow puppets are manipulated using two sticks and their making is preceded by ceremonies officiated by white-clad ritual leaders and the puppets must be accomplished within one day.
A performance of Nang yai shadow puppet
Nang talung shadow puppet
(Rishi) Rishi in Thailand’s nang talung theater
Let’s explain by taking the example of a Hindu divinely inspired poet (Rishi), men of wisdom and prognosis. Created with a single brown color in the incised decoration image,” this shadow puppet appears quite solemn. His left hand holds a snake and the left holds the tree of life, which is symbolic of wisdom. His head and body are made in one piece and only his right hand can be made to move, for which reason there is only one handle. The whole puppet is supported using a single bamboo cane, whose bottom section has been sharpened. During performance, a banana stalk is placed between the window and the puppeteer. After appearance of the puppet, it is struck on the banana trunk. On the left are the villains and on the right stand the good ones.
Modern Thai script and puppets
The “nang talung” has also developed modern scripts and puppets. For example, this “cowboy” is heavily influenced by American movies. Like the Rishis of Hinduism, it is also in one piece and only the right hand can move. The difference is that it is brighter in color, having been painted in red, black and green. We can therefore say that contemporary Thai shadow puppet theater is a mixture of the traditional and the modern.
No. 42, Gangshan S. Rd.,Gangshan District,
Kaohsiung City 82060, Taiwan(Museum Hours)
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TEL:8867-6262620 ext. 2806 | FAX:8867-6250404