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Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

Here is an article about the future of Taiwanese Shadow Puppetry by Wu Li-an which is well worth reading.
“Dreams and Outlooks: The future development of shadow puppet theater and culture Cultural propagation in Kaohsiung County through shadows and lights

When one describes shadow puppet culture as “having a long history,” does it imply that it is destined to wane and disappear? If we say that the real test of everything is going through the “cosmic parabolic law,” can we then trigger off another life cycle for the art of shadow puppet theater, such that the art and its values can play a role in people’s life and culture? I believe that the answer is in the affirmative.

The origins of ‘Shadow puppets” can be traced as far back to the reign of Emperor Wuti in the Han Dynasty, and was introduced into Southern Taiwan some three centuries ago. Today, with progress in science and technology, the elements of light and shadow continue to be applied in fine arts, photography, opera, architecture, literature and even in daily activities, such that one can rightfully say that shadow puppet theater is the forefather of all these. Kaohsiung County hosts Taiwan’s only shadow puppet museum. Under the joint efforts of County Chief Yang Ch’iu-hsing, the county government and the private sector who all treasure their traditional arts, a series of activities have been planned and carried out. Today, the digital learning classes are just about ready to be launched and I have heeded the call to write for this endeavor, proud of the chance to share my views on the propagation of our traditional culture.
I believe that light and shadow constantly remain a part of human life not just because of the visuals and colors that they create to enrich our lives. More importantly, the interplay of light and shadow creates the feeling of boundless time and space as well as the notion of the fleeting nature of human existence. These are the real elements that move our hearts and that explain the endless use of light and shadow in every aspect of life. In the following passages, I will probe into the ways on how to inject new life into the culture of shadow puppets from a focused perspective and on a wider, more comprehensive angle.

(1) Propagation of the Art of Shadow Puppets

In addition to exhibition and collection, the shadow puppet museum is now engaged in promotion and research work. The digital learning program is poised to effectively carry out education and transmission functions, and is seen as a tool for the current stage of personnel training.

The Digital Learning Program
By means of digital learning, it is hoped that users can trace the historical origins of shadow puppet theater, as well as draw inspirations through the aesthetics of the art. More importantly, it is hoped that shadow puppet theater can serve as a tool for man as he advances towards the future. Thus, in addition to teaching programs in the learning network, we will work towards enhancing the functional integration of shadow puppet culture with daily life, making the website become an interesting, interactive and recreational platform for the participation and learning of one and all.

Digital Learning Program 1: Interest and Interaction
1. Shadow Puppet Genie:
Shadow Puppet Genie is the master that crisscrosses the whole website. It will be dynamically applied when explaining the classes or how the website works, and will play the role of the presenter or commentator. By using a naming contest for the Shadow Puppet Genie, we hope to better promote the digital learning program and encourage greater participation from the public.
2. Adopting One’s Own Favorite Shadow Puppet Game
By on-line adoption of one’s own shadow puppet, we intend to make the young and the not-so-young better understand the process of making shadow puppets and its method of preservation, thus adding more interesting appeal to the learning network through which a never-ending learning process goes on and on.

The web page program will be designed with a fixed mode and procedural animation, so that each one can make an online choice out of the five available roles: young male lead, female lead, painted-face male, older male lead and jester. Beginning with the process of applying limestone on leather, it is followed three days later with an online bleaching and sunning process, to be followed the next day with sketching carving, color selection and naming, until the shadow puppet is finally completed.

Completed shadow puppets may also be put on show in the display area. Those who adopt a shadow puppet may check the Game Area online for new activities, such as seeking performance roles for their adopted puppets, or just to chat with other fellow adopters, or to vote for the most popular puppet, etc.
Through contact details provided by the participants, the website also sends regular notices or newsletters. This is useful in discovering new talents in the future.

3. Online Puppet Manipulation
Using the keyboard or the mouse, one can choose different angles, colors or textures, such that participants can choose the combination. Selected keys may also be used to manipulate arms and legs of puppets to carry out simple movements. Through computer simulation, participants get to practice and enhance their skills, which will help to develop their interest in and appreciation of the art.
4. Online Script Writing and Discussion Zone
The writing of shadow puppet scripts is another area for learning. The online feature allows participants to watch each other’s works and engage in brainstorm sessions. Another goal of this design is to foster cohesiveness among participants.
5. Periodic Performance Based on an Online Theater Schedule
Excellent contest winners from the elementary school group will be broadcast so that participants can appreciate their great creativity, and to stimulate learning, while also fostering a sense of honor for children by sharing the fruits of their hard work.

Digital Learning Program 2: Teaching Program
Currently, similar digital learning networks such as the paid program in Taipei’s National Palace Museum can serve as references for us. The said program adopts very elegant web page designs, animation and a step-by-step learning process, as well as the use of a clear voice over. A learning atmosphere that combines classical characters and art offers a feast for the eyes of those who access it online.
In addition to an explanation of its history, the creation of shadow puppets, their manipulation, scripts, and others, the teaching of shadow puppets may also include online tours of the shadow puppet museum, through which this special collection can be showcased, in such a way that users will be encouraged to make actual visits to the museum.

Large-scale Activities and Contests
Today, some folk groups are constantly trying to improve, with the goal of enhancing the artistic value of shadow puppet theater. If the government organizes relevant competitions, it would lead to an endless flowering of creativity. In this way, shadow puppet culture will gain the attention of many, and eventually it will attract and involve people, or at least, they will learn to appreciate this unique form of art.

For instance, the large-scale “Water Genie” activities held in Ta Pei Lake successful gained the attention of people living in Southern Taiwan, somehow revitalizing the childhood memories lying dormant under life’s daily pressures. If the said activity can be made regular, it promises to become a special event of Kaohsiung County.
Another successful example is the “Chime Festival” of Pingtung, which took good advantage of the phenomenon of downhill wind peculiar to the area. Annual competitions for creative chime designs and poetry writing have attracted great response from all over Taiwan.
Integration with Daily Living
“Porcelain vases” can both be treasured items of the National Palace Museum collection and a common daily utensil in every home. Only when a culture or art is integrated with daily living can it develop and innovate unceasingly. Thus, no matter how society evolves, shadow puppet theater can play both leading and supportive roles, be absorbed into people’s lives and become an element in the creation of a civilization.

1. English-language Shadow Puppet Theater
In addition to being performed in halls, shadow puppet theater can be a tool for learning of other knowledge. Just like learning English through animated movies, comics books, animation and television, we can also develop shadow puppet theater in the English language. Not only will this show the diversity of shadow puppet culture, it will also help attain goals on promoting this form of art while serving as a tool for learning other skills as well.
2. Shadow Puppet Electronic Games
Today’s electronic games emphasize 3D, lights and sounds, excitement and leisure. AS the forefather of lights and shadow activities, shadow puppet will surely fare very well when applied to computer games.
3. Children’s Festival
Actual cartoon characters often appear in children’s shows. The shadow puppet mode has not yet been adopted for such programs. If shadow puppets were applied in television programs, it would be advantageous for the propagation of this art while also inciting novel interest among children.
4. Development of 2D and 3D art Based on Shadow Puppets
Shadow puppets feature beautiful lines. It would be a good way of cultural propagation if shadow puppets are promoted through contests or other means and applied to 2D, 3D and decorative art designs.
5. Shadow Puppet Carnival
Halloween has become a trend in kindergartens, elementary schools and society nowadays, even though there is little understanding of this Western tradition.

Perhaps this may become a lifestyle trend of the future. The pressure of living in today’s society has led to a rising number of people suffering from manic depression. Costume parties associated with Halloween, often done with great innovation, is a way for emotional release.

Being aware of this joyful learning process, we can perhaps create activities unique to Kaohsiung County by using attires of the five major shadow puppet roles and by mimicking the mechanical movements of shadow puppets. This will allow school children to enjoy such performances at school while also releasing their stress. In addition, it would be a way to propagate shadow puppet culture, and perhaps this could start a shadow puppet trend across Taiwan.
6. Shadow Puppet Products
Children love stickers, coloring books, puzzles, etc. If shadow puppet designs can be incorporated into these products, it would be a great way to propagate this culture right at a very young age, with effects that are enhanced many times over.

(2) Kaohsiung County-Cultural Propagation through Shadows and Lights
Lights and shadows do not just represent opera and art; they also symbolize man’s dialogue with time and space. From the broader perspective, we see that Taiwan’s shadow puppet culture has its backdrop in the past, present and future interplay of lights and shadows, as viewed from the landscape of lights and shadows in beautiful Kaohsiung County, from its folk specialties and from its people’s way of life. Therefore as we think about ways and means to transmit shadow puppet culture, we must at the same time extend out vision into every nook and cranny of this county, so that we can search a common spirit and rural imagery for this varied and inimitable Kaohsiung County. Only thus can we create a Kaohsiung County that has its place in history and honest-to-goodness county of cultural transmission through lights and shadows. I believe that anybody who has deliberated on this issue will realize that cultural transmission better be done with passion, and much more, with confidence. Thus, only if we firmly believe that shadow puppet has infinite potentials for development can there be more power of creation and innovation. The sincerity and goodwill of people will blaze a trail for new opportunities and a pathway for its transmission. Today, by using digital learning programs, we hope to gain the attraction and concern of a greater number of people for this traditional art, so that it occupies its rightful place in history and arts. We further hope that shadow puppet culture will once again form part of society’s life, in such a way that it blends into the imagery of life and the outlooks of the future.
(By Wu Li-an, Third Prize, Essay Writing Contest for the Dreams and Outlooks: The future development of shadow puppet theater and culture)
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