Kaohsiung Museum of shadow puppet
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The following are three stories of the origins of the shadow play

Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty & Mrs. Li
Shi Ji, written by Sima Qian, and also known as the Records of the Grand Historian, mentions that after Mrs. Li, the favorite concubine of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, passed away Emperor Wu was not in a mood to deal with affairs of state because of his great sadness. His ministers invited Li Shao-weng (in actuality a charlatan) to call Mrs. Li back from the dead. In order to meet Emperor Wu, Li put up a curtain showing a silhouette on a curtain with a dim light and told Emperor Wu that it was indeed Mrs. Li’s image. The “show” pleased and mesmerized Emperor Wu and led to the creation of shadow plays.

Tang Dynasty Monasteries
There’s a saying, “Shang Juan Li Pu Bi, Shou Ru Xia Juan (The last image has been played so it can be put away.)” in “Wang Zhou-jun Bian Wen (A Varied-style Story of Wang Zhao-jun)” of Dunhuang Yuan Ben (Dunhuang Original Copy). According to research, “Li Pu” is an image, so it can be interpreted that there was a piece of equipment that could project images of the Buddha in a kind of slide show in order to strengthen the effect of sermons given by the monks.

Stories of the Three Kingdoms that Played in the Song Dynasty
“Shi Wu Ji Yuan” said, “During the time of Emperor Ren of the Song Dynasty, a story teller used shadow figures to describe the stories of the Three Kingdoms, Wei, Wu, and Shu.”

These are only three possible origins of shadow plays. There is evidence that the shadow plays of the Han or Tang Dynasty are merely the subject of rumors and speculation. However, there were written documents about shadow plays in the Song Dynasty. “Meng Liang Lu,” written by Wu Zi-mu, in the Song Dynasty spoke of carving shapes out of sheepskin and said, “Carving a loyal and impartial person in a good-looking shape; carving an evil person in an ugly shape makes it easy to tell good guys from bad ones due to their appearance.”

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Kaohsiung City 82060, Taiwan(Museum Hours)
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