Quanzhou Puppets - a treasure of Chinese folk arts

Updated: 27 Mar 2009
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The Quanzhou puppet is an elaborate folk handicraft produced in Quanzhou of Fujian Province.


There are two types of puppets in Quanzhou: string puppets and palm puppets. Puppeteers control their movements and expressions by pulling strings or moving fingers.


The making of Quanzhou puppets involves lots of procedures, including head carving using camphorwood, mounting, puddle applying, polishing, painting and attaching costumes and ornaments.





The figures are well proportioned and exquisitely made, especially the puppet head, which is elaborately carved and brightly painted, showing great ingenuity. For male puppet figures, the hair coils are made of real hair or directly carved out of camphorwood, with some figures having an attached beard. The hair coils of female figures are all made of real hair.


Each string puppet is attached with more than 16 strings; some may have as many as 30 strings. During a show, the puppeteer controls them behind the scenes, bringing motionless puppets to life and a lot of captivating and touching stories are reenacted in vivid puppet shows.  


Quanzhou has long been praised as "the home of operas" and “"the city of puppets". Way back in the late Tang Dynasty, puppet shows were introduced into Quanzhou and became widely-spread among the people in the Song Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, Quanzhou puppet shows were no longer limited to focusing on play highlights and acrobatics, but able to feature grand-scale historical dramas.


In the Qing Dynasty, the making techniques of Quanzhou puppets were greatly improved. And a lot of painted-face and funny-face figures were made according to the character features of the play.


Present-day Quanzhou puppets not only retain the sculpturing and painting styles of the Tang and Song Dynasties, but also put a stress on exaggeration and variation based on traditional techniques, with a focus on personality expression and presentation. Quanzhou puppets are a treasure of Chinese folk arts.


SOURCE: Cultural China

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