Kaohsiung Museum of shadow puppet
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In a shadow play, the protagonists are puppets, so an understanding of the puppets will help people acquire more in-depth knowledge of the art form.

Different styles and carvings produce different puppet characteristics. In shadow plays, the roles are also divided into Sheng, Dan, Jing, Mo, and Chou, just like the roles in Chinese operas, to show each puppet’s peculiar characteristics. Therefore, the processes of manufacturing puppets, which includes leatherworking, carving, dyeing, ironing, stitching, and lever mounting are extraordinarily important.

Let’s start to understand the puppet’s characteristics, role types, and puppet production, and appreciate the excellent puppets collected from throughout Taiwan and mainland China by the Kaohsiung City Shadow Play Museum, as well as modern puppets whose features are different traditional puppets.
1.Features of Shadow Puppets

Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

Traditional shadow puppets are mainly sideway in design. Another feature is the degree of appearance, as for example, 60%, 80% and 100% appearance. In general, we call traditional shadow puppets showing a single eye and one side of the face to be “50% appearance” as shown in Figure

1. A shadow puppet that shows a complete frontal portrayal of the face with two eyes is called 100% appearance, as illustrated in Fig.

4. In between these two are 60% and 80% appearance, as shown in Fig. 2 and 3.

Click on the pictures below to enlarge for a better understanding of the features of each role.
1 “50% Appearance” (Relief carving Taiwan shadow puppet)

2 “60% Appearance” (Taiwan shadow puppet using a combination of relief carving and incised decoration)

3 “80% Appearance” (Incised decoration Chinese shadow puppet)

4 “100% Appearance” (Relief carving Chinese shadow puppet)

2. Puppet Characteristics
Featuring red, black, and green colors, the puppets in Taiwan during the early period were about one foot high. The carving methods were inherited from mainland China and could be divided into relief and engraving. Relief is a kind of carving that cuts the puppet’s facial lines from a surrounding surface while leaving the rest blank, so the face of the puppet is composed of lines. Engraving is a form of carving in which facial features are presented.

3. Role Types
The role types in Taiwanese shadow plays are inherited from traditional Chinese operas. These roles are Sheng, Dan, Jing, Mo, and Chou. (Male Lead, Female Lead, Supporting Male Lead, Male Role, & Jester)

Sheng is the male lead role in the play, including Wen Sheng (cultured man), Wu Sheng (male warrior), and Lao Sheng (old gentleman). ”Zhuang Yuan (No. 1 examinee in the national exam)”. The Sheng in “Mu Dan Ting” is played by a young male.

Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

I’m a young male role
Male roles can be divided into “literary male”.”martial male” and “old male”.
literary male Of a gentle manner I’m of a gentle manner
martial male Dashingly heroic See how dashingly heroic I look
old male With mustache Look at my beard. I’m old. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Dan denotes female roles, including Hua Dan (coquettish female), Wu Dan (female warrior), Qing Yi (demure woman), Lao Dan (elderly woman), etc.

I’m a young female role
Female roles can be divided into “primary female”. “supporting female”. “martial female”. And “old or clownish female”.
supporting female naïve lively girl or housewife I’m a naïve lively cute girl.
martial female a heroine among women I’m a heroine!
clownish female mostly middle-aged, silent and demure women L’m a silent and demure girl.
old female Old females and housewives I may look old, but I’m really young at heart.

Jing, also called “Painted Face”, is a supporting male lead with special characteristics. Different colors of paint determine the roles’ characteristics. For example, treacherous men always have a white face. Cao Cao of the Three Kingdoms is the best example. Black faced characters represent justice and straightforwardness. Bao Gong and Zhang Fei are representative of this class. Characters that are loyal and unyielding, such as Guang Gong, Zhao Kuang-yin, and Wen Tai-shi are red-faced. Figures with a yellow face, such as Sun Bin are evil-minded. Blue-faces represent courage and ferociousness. Green-faced characters are hot-tempered and outrageous.

I’m a painted-face male
The painted-face male often portrays bold carefree roles or traitorous males. This role has vivid beautiful face-painted designs on the face, dyed with various colors. The different colors, which symbolize various traits, explain why this role is also known as “Flowery face.”
Black Supporting male role represents righteous character. I’m righteous! Who dare’s challenge me?
Red Supporting male role symbolizes loyalty. In times when rectitude is as thin as the clouds, I’m the only remaining man of loyalty and righteousness

White Supporting male role means vileness of character. The vilest character of this generation. That’s me!
Yellow Supporting male role role represents daring and braveness. Brave in war and unvanquished through many wars!
Green Supporting male role Green symbolizes a deity or evil spirit, or a bandit. I’m either evil-hearted or bandit. Beware you all!
Blue Supporting male role is the color of a grassroots’ hero. I rose from the masses to carry out righteous chivalry everywhere I go.

In the Yuan Dynasty, Mo referred to male title roles. Afterwards, Mo came to represent other male characters, especially middle-aged or senior actors with beards, such as emperors, kings, officials, and squires.

I’m a older male role
The old male role used to be classified as a supporting role, but is now placed under the general category of the old male.
Old male role used to be a supporting role now categorized under the old-man type. I’m the old one. Just look at my beard.
Taoist priest An aged master of Taoism. I’m a Taoist priest with great power!
Old farmer I’m an old hardworking, simple villager.

Chou roles are characteristic of jocularity, ridiculousness, and farcicality. Chou can be further divided into two types: Wen Chou (a comedian) and Wu Chou (a comedian with martial skills).

I’m a jester
Jesters play the smallest roles in the theater. Often funny or ridiculously ugly or evil, their expressions bring laughter to the viewers.
Literary jester a trouble-making dandy I’m what people call the playboy.
Martial jester A humorous military general. I’m humorous and very approachable.
Jester female Ugly, hard to please and funny. Who said I’m ugly and hard to please?

Mythical Personalities
Myths consist of the major theme among many shadow puppet stories. They feature mythical personalities.

Lead female Taiwanese lead female shadow puppet This is a Taiwanese shadow puppet for a leading female role. Her attire is all carved with chrysanthemum flowers and bamboos, and appears quite solemn. The headdress has a phoenix pattern and she holds a gourd, while her feet are bare. This lead portrays a noble and powerful woman. This is not the image of a female general, and this puppet is instead suitable for portraying a fairy, or Zhang Ssu-chieh, who saves Tsui Wen-jui in the shadow puppet story bearing the latter name.
Prince Ne-cha This is Prince Ne-cha, the main character in the Story of Fengshen Pang. Carved in one piece in relief style, it shows a young man of fair features attired in light vibrant colored clothes, yet without losing its complex design. Its neck shows green mint leaves, which he uses to resurrect himself. The flames on his rear represent the wheels of fire often associated with this mythical figure.
King of Hell Judgment before the King of Hell A scene in Shaanhsi shadow puppet theater showing judgment after death by the King of Hell.
God of Thunder This is the Thunder God in the Story of Fengshen Pang. Also in one piece, this shadow puppet used incised decoration. Its pointed beak open, and the character “chi” on his chest, the latter alluding to his role in creating thunder to ward off enemies.
Dragon King of the Eastern Sea Another major character in the Story of Fengshen Pang is the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. Carved in on piece with incised decoration, it shows a widely opened dragon mouth that depicts anger. A fair wand and yellow robes symbolize his noble status.
Pig This is a Shaanhsi shadow puppet representing the Pig on the Clouds.


Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

Besides puppets representing human characters. Taiwan’s shadow puppet theater also features animals, all of which are carved out of cowhide. The most commonly seen animals include dragon, tiger, cow and pig. Dragon puppets are made up of several sections of the dragon body. In animal puppets, legs are usually fastened below the body and can be manipulated to perform different movements. In the following section, we will take a look at some of the most common animal shadow puppets in Taiwan and in China.
Crane Puppet Shaanhsi’s crane shadow puppet. I’m a crane puppet from Shaanhsi.
Dragon Puppet Shaanhsi’s dragon shadow puppet. I’m a dragon puppet from Shaanhsi.
Tiger Puppet Taiwan’s tiger shadow puppet. I’m Taiwan tiger shadow puppet.
Cow Puppet Taiwan’s cow shadow puppet. I’m the cow puppet from Taiwan.


Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

Props adopted in Taiwan’s shadow puppet theater are usually made in one piece, and come in all makes and sizes. For instance, there are props for decorations on a court official’s table, furniture, weaponry, etc.
Horse carriage shadow puppet Shaanhsi horse carriage shadow puppet I’m a horse carriage puppet from Shaanhsi.
Sedan chair and carriers Shadow puppet for sedan chair and carriers I’m a sedan chair and carrier shadow puppet from Shaanhsi, China.
Official’s table Taiwanese official’s table shadow puppet The vilest character of this generation. That’s me!
Official’s chair Taiwanese court official’s chair shadow puppet. I’m a shadow puppet for official’s chair.
Ox carriage puppet Taiwanese ride-on –an-ox carriage shadow puppet. I’m a Taiwan ox carriage shadow puppet.
Table props Taiwanese court official’s table props shadow puppet. I’m a shadow puppet for official’s table props in Taiwanese shadow puppet theater.
Carriers of sedan chair puppet Early Taiwanese shadow puppet for carriers with sedan chair I’m a shadow puppet for carriers of sedan chair in Taiwanese shadow puppet theater.
Lady-in-a-carriage puppet Lady-on-a-carriage Taiwanese shadow puppet I’m a Taiwanese puppet for lady in a carriage.
Shadow puppet crossing a river in a boat. I am a Taiwanese shadow puppet; I can cross a river in a boat!
Shadow puppet riding a bicycle. I am a Taiwanese shadow puppet; I can ride a bicycle!


Features of Shadow Puppets Flash

In Taiwan, backdrops for shadow puppet shows are made in one piece. Designed in the forms of castles, houses, the fields or riverbanks, they provide the locale for the story to unfold. In most cases, backdrops are attached to the window.

This is a backdrop showing a military tent where commanders give their orders. It uses bright colors.
A similar backdrop showing a tent where military commanders issue their commands. A table is shown on the right.
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Kaohsiung City 82060, Taiwan(Museum Hours)
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