• Shadow play or shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment using opaque, often articulated figures in front of an illuminated backdrop to create the illusion of moving images. It is popular in various cultures. ...
• (noun)a show in which shadows of puppets, flat figures, or live actors are projected onto a lighted screen.
• Also called as shadowgraphy, shadow show, shadow play.
History of Shadow Theatre
Most experts believe that the art of shadow playing originated from China during the Han Dynasty (206BC to 220AD). As the story goes, the Emperor Wu Han had many concubines, but one whom he loved most. When she died, he was so devastated that he lost interest in life, and neglected all his responsibilities. His councillors tried all they could to revive their ruler, but nothing could abate his sorrow.
Finally, one of the greatest artists of the court created a puppet in the likeness of the emperor’s beloved using donkey leather and painted cloths. He lit a silk screen from behind, and with the movable joints of the puppet he imitated her graceful movements, even speaking with the intonations of her voice. Having his beloved seemingly brought back to life, the emperor was thus comforted and returned to his duties, much to everyone’s relief.
An alternative, though somewhat less romantic, explanation of how shadow theatre originated in China was because ladies were not allowed to watch live theatre performances, hence the most successful shows were staged as shadow plays in female quarters instead.
The origins of Taiwan's shadow puppetry can be traced to the Chaochow school of shadow puppet theatre. Commonly known as leather monkey shows or leather shows, the shadow plays were popular in Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung as early as the Qing dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.). Older puppeteers estimate that there were at least a hundred shadow puppet troupes in southern Taiwan in the closing years of the... [continues]
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