Vietnam Travel Guide

Water Puppetry – Vietnamese Soul In Each Play

Water puppetry ( Mua roi nuoc ) is one of the typical types of the theatrical scene for the Vietnamese national culture – Showing the intellect and intelligence and creativity of the Vietnamese people.


The history of Vietnamese water puppetry art

Water puppetry originates in the Red delta river area of northern religion Vietnam with the wet rice civilization in the 11 century. The most strong development was in the reign of Emperors of Ly –T ran dynasty  (The century 11,12). The Vietnamese folk puppetry is associated with the village belief systems to worship Tutelary gods or to help everyone entertain in the folkloric festivals. Therefore, this art form usually takes place on specific occasion, village festivals and the lunar new year.

The unique features

Puppets are made of wood and then lacquered to be watertight and endurable. Each puppet has their own appearance and name depend on the gender and personality of each character in real life.

A water puppet is showed in a pond or a pool of water with the water surface as the stage of the puppets. The stage of the water puppet called Thuy Dinh or water pavilion is normally placed in the middle of the pond.

The puppeteers stand waist-deep behind a bamboo screen and take control of the puppets through a pole-and-string apparatus system hiding under the water surface. The actions of puppets do not only depend on pole-and-string apparatus but also on the force of water as well as the system of rudders and floats in a “controlling machine” of the puppets. Therefore, what you can see is only the presence of puppets on the water surface without puppeteers or controlling poles.

In water puppetry art, music is an indispensable factor as a bridge between the show and the audiences. While puppets play their role, the singers of Cheo (a form of generally satirical traditional musical theatre of Vietnam) sing songs to tell us the story through the lyrics. Music, song, words in combination with the movements of puppets attract the audiences. It leads them to understand more about the content and evolution of the story.

The contents of the water puppetry show are about everyday life activities of Vietnamese people, healthy and useful entertainments, plays a setting example of national heroes and traditional opera plays. All of this reflects the life and aspirations of wet rice residents in Red Delta River as well as represent the Vietnamese cultural and spiritual values.

Where can tourists watch a real water puppet performance?

Water puppets are presented in most of the provinces in the delta and midland of the Red River. It can be performed in some villages such as Dao Thuc village in Hanoi, Yen Duc village in Quang Ninh province particularly, Central Puppet Theater and Thang Long Puppet Theater in Hanoi. Some people said that “Not watching a performance of water puppetry means no visiting Vietnam yet”.  So, let’s Vietnam package Tours help you to have a nice experience with water puppetry show.

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