Date: November 1, 2015
By: JIM HWANG
A handful of troupes endeavor to preserve the centuries-old art of shadow puppetry.
Shadow puppetry has been entertaining audiences in Taiwan since it was brought to the
south of the island by performers from Chaozhou in mainland China’s Guangdong province during the early Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Colloquially referred to as “leather monkey shows,” the performances were mainstays of temple fairs and celebrations for generations. The art form suffered a lull in popularity during World War II, but subsequently experienced a resurgence that lasted until the mid-1960s.
Television and movies became the dominant forms of entertainment in the latter half of the 20th century in Taiwan, and the rise of dance performances at temple fairs caused the age-old art to wane in popularity further. Currently, there are only a handful of shadow puppetry troupes left in the country.
Now operated by the fourth generation of the Zhang family, Yungshing-Le Shadowgraph Troupe in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung City is one such company. In addition to preserving their family tradition, the brother-sister duo behind Yungshing-Le has been reaching out to elementary and junior high schools to not only entertain but to teach. Troupe members instruct students on the basics of shadow puppetry, such as how to construct the leather puppets as well as the fundamental techniques of maneuvering them. [FULL STORY]