October 8, 2010

Puppet Carving and Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Museum

Puppetry is one of my favorite folk arts which reflect not only the artistic side of the puppets, but also the culture and story behind. We decided to visit “Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum” (林柳新紀念偶戲博物館) in Taipei which is located in the Dadaocheng area. By the end of the visit, I not only saw a variety of puppets from different countries, but also met with and learned from the Puppet Carver with the museum which highlighted my entire trip.

Once we got in the lobby, we were warmly welcomed by Mr. Lai Shi-An who is the Puppet Carver and a glove puppeteer in the museum. He was a student of Master Chen, Xihuang who is the son of the most famous puppeteer in Taiwan, Mr. Li Tianlu. Hundreds of Puppet Head carvings created by him were placing in his table drawer. He had no hesitation showing us all his beautiful art work.

He does not need any sketching ahead of time before his carvings; Mr. Lai said that all designs were planned in his head. A friend of his gave him a famous comic character figure and this is what his carving looks like.

He was so patiently showing us the different head carvings. Some of them are the solid heads which would not make any facial movement. Some of them are hollow inside so that the finger can stick in. If you look at these 2 photos closely, you would see the mouth of this head widely open. It takes him 1-2 days to complete a hollow carving.

Part of the carvings can be done by the machine, but he needs to refine it afterwards. Here is the hand carving refined after the machine carving.

After the head is done, color paints are applied, and then the design clothing would be put on. He demonstrated how this puppet walks. Watch it closely. See that this puppet is also opening his mouth and how beautiful the puppets arms are moving during his demonstration.

Please watch a short video clip on the bottom of this post for his demonstration.

The major difference of the current puppet with the traditional puppet is the design of the legs. The legs are placed inside the front clothes instead of the back so the legs can easily move and perform. The legs are also filled with fabrics which make both legs a bit heavier than the old designed puppet, a great help for the leg movement.

The museum is in a small building with 4 floors which showcase that Puppetry is an important fixture of the traditional Taiwanese culture. The museum has good collections of the Taiwan’s Puppetry and also puppetry from different Asia countries as well as some western countries.

Besides the glove puppet, it also has great collections of the traditional Marionettes (String Puppets). String Puppet has been the local folk art since Song Dynasty. The string puppet stage performance has been connected to the local belief, religion, and ward off evils ceremony. Because of this, String Puppet performance has not been as popular as Glove Puppets’.

More strings on the puppets reflect higher skills are required during the performance!

The Indian Marionettes, Burma Marionettes, Vietnam’s water puppet, and other western countries are also displayed in the museum. It highlights a rich puppetry and diverse art form in Asia and other cultures.

On the second floor of the museum, don’t forget to experience the puppet stage performance yourself before you leave.

The Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum has attracted many foreigners to visit and learn the Taiwanese folk art and culture. All collections are well presented in both Chinese and English languages.

I would also like to thank Mr. Lai for his warm hospitality during our visit, which gave me a rich and fun experience!

Lin Liu-Hsin Puppet Theatre Museum website

Below are the 2 short video clips that I recorded for his carving and puppet demonstration.

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Rafael Lam said...

Thank you for introduce this great art, I really want to visit here!
I can see how this puppet act during the demonstration, great!

London Caller said...

Wow so intricate! Must be really time-consuming to produce one puppet!
Photo No 3 - isn't that 大番薯??? OMG! I used to read 老夫子 a lot when I was little!

Anonymous said...

I love the pictures' vibrant and vivid colors!

I can't even imagine the skills and patience needed to carve such piece of art...

micki and kristen said...

@Rafael-Thanks! Photos just can't show the action well, so I decided to record it with my camera. I am still working on my recording skills! :) :)

@Londoncaller- Yeap, that is 大番薯! I found the 老夫子 and 大番薯 DVDs in the bookstore this time in Taipei! I did not know they have been made to a cartoon movie. I thought they are just books!

@Zhu and Londoncaller- Mr. Lai said that he makes them very fast. Part of the carvings can be done by the machine which saves lots of his time.

The Nomadic Pinoy said...

Puppetry is already an art in itself but this is the first time I'm looking at how it's made - they're really works of art. Lucky you to be given that insider's chance to capture the process in photos.

London Caller said...

The 老夫子 movie was very old, I watched it when I was young too!
But that time, it wasn't in DVD yet! Ha ha...
It's in Cantonese. :) But still very funny!
I think the movie is about Pac Man (Yeah the video game!)...

micki and kristen said...

@The Nomadic Pinoy- Indeed we were very lucky that Mr. Lai got to spend time with us and even let me record some video clips too.

@Londoncaller-Really! I was not aware of the existing of the 老夫子 movie, or I should have watched it! I still miss 老夫子 and 大番薯! I wished I could have bought that DVD this time..

fufu said...

wow wow wow this is simply awesome :) love reading through :) would like to visit this museum!!

micki and kristen said...

@fufu- Thanks! Don't forget to add this place to your list too~~ :)

shloke said...

Thanks for sharing!

I LIKE video 2! The body movement is AWESOME! Slow and steady :) But the old man puppet looks kinda creepy.

Did you see any shadow hand puppet (aka 'Wayang Kulit') from Malaysia and Indonesia in the museum? A bit different from Mr' Lai puppet. Check this out: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1775357/malaysian_wayang_kulit_2/

Jorge Miyashiro said...

FAN-TAS-TIC POST! With video at all! Your're improving. Not waste time in live a puppeteer's live a little. Ha-ha! Working in translation for my visitors, with all credits, sure.

micki and kristen said...

@Jorge-I am glad you find this post interesting! :) Look forward to seeing how your visitors think of the puppetry in Taiwan~~

@Sholke- I did not see Malaysia or Indonesia’s shadow hand puppet in the museum. They look very similar to the Chinese leather shadow puppets except for the different music background. I am also interested in Shadow Puppets. They are gorgeous and delicate.

lechua said...

awesome sharing of the behind the scenes making of the puppets. so now most of them by machine and refined by hand....

micki and kristen said...

@Lechua- Thanks! I am sure that he can carve the whole piece by hand. Machine can only do the beginning part of the carving which saves lots of his time..

Jean said...

I loved this post about the puppetry place that you visited. I went to a marionette museum in the Czech Republic (Cesky Krumlov) this past summer but it didn't have on-site puppet makers/creators.

micki and kristen said...

@Jean- Thanks! I think it makes a big difference if there is a puppeteer or a puppet maker on-site and if this person loves to share. I think it will add lots of interaction elements in it. We were very lucky to meet Mr. Lai who has no hesitation in sharing lots of his work and knowledge with us.

aliah said...

Puppet making is a beautiful art & you need be creative, when you are making puppet and puppets you shared is good.
ventriloquist puppets for sale

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