Kaohsiung Museum of shadow puppet
Home | Traffic | Contact Us  | Share 
Chinese | English | JP | KIDS
Large fontMedium-sized fontSmall font
Shadow puppet productions can be categorized into three types: characters, stage properties, and stage settings. Puppets were originally made of paper, and later buffalo leather. The production skills of Taiwanese masters were inherited from mainland China, and most of the puppets were produced by the performers and based on traditional shapes. The production process is divided into five phases: leatherworking, carving, dyeing, ironing, stitching, and lever mounting.

1. Leatherworking
In China, the leather materials of the shadow puppets vary because of the different environments in which they were produced. Most of them consist of cow leather, donkey leather, or sheepskin. In Taiwan, cow leather is the main material because it’s easy to obtain, highly temperature resistant, hard, tough, and transmits light well. The leatherworking process is as follows: acquire the leather, soak in limewater for three to four days, clean and bleach, then dry in the sun on a rack.

2. Carving
Because the scripts are relatively fixed, performers usually copy traditional patterns to carve shadow puppets. The production process is as follows: performers put the figure’s shape under the leather, draw the contour lines with a steel needle, cut along the line with a graver, and then soaked in water. After the leather becomes soft, the performers will start carving the eyes, nose, mouth, hair, clothes, etc., then add smaller details. Finally, they will flatten the semi-finished puppets with a plank.

3. Dyeing
The third step is dyeing both sides of the flattened puppets. Black, green, and red are the main colors. Although there are not too many color options, the puppets are still very colorful because of color mixtures and the use of light and dark shades.

4. Ironing
After the dying process is complete, the puppets will be placed in the shade to dry, flattened by a plank, and then ironed until it is very flat and smooth. After ironing, the puppets will be clipped with paper to keep flat and will become semi-translucent.
The main purpose of ironing is to allow the leather to absorb the dyes and to close the leather’s pores with the high temperature produced by the iron. In this way, the colors will not easily fade and the leather will not become curled or deformed.

5. Stitching and Lever Mounting
A well-made shadow puppet can be divided into 10 pieces. These are the head, chest, abdomen, legs, arms, elbows, and hands, which allow for flexibility and easy operation. The head includes the face, hat, and neck. Below the neck is a wedge. During a performance, the performer will plug the wedge into the upper chest where there is a mount and remove it after the performance. Both sides of the chest have joints for arms that can be divided into upper arms and lower arms. The lower arms connect to hands. The abdomen connects the chest and legs. The legs and feet, including footwear, are one unit. The joints between each piece are stitched with thread. Both sides of each point are tied with knots flattened with a shank, completing the shadow puppet. A puppet has to be operated with levers. Generally, a puppet has two levers. One is mounted at the body, and the other is at the hand. In this way, the performers can make the puppet do almost any kind of action.
No. 42, Gangshan S. Rd.,Gangshan District,
Kaohsiung City 82060, Taiwan(Museum Hours)
Copyrught © Kaohsiung of History. All Rughts Reserved.
TEL:8867-6262620 ext. 2806 | FAX:8867-6250404