· NEWS · 
Preserving intangible craftsmanship - cultural beauty in shadow play

enad.tsinghua.edu.cn , February 7, 2021

Share E-mail

"The world is a great place of harmony in diversity."

Shadow Play is very comprehensive because it is no longer just a traditional art. In addition to modeling, leather processing and carving techniques, the related performing arts also play a vital role in this project, such as traditional rap performances and shadow puppet manipulation techniques. Therefore, the protection of Shadow Play is a compound project, which undoubtedly raises many new requirements for the inheritance and protection work of this intangible cultural heritage.

We can see that Shadow Play, despite being no longer a mainstream art of our current cultural life, still maintains a deep emotional connection with the folk society.

Shadow Play is not only of China, but also of the world. In the study of literature, we can see that this vivid form of shadow play has spread all over the world, already becoming a lamp of human civilization to illuminate our path and warm the heart.

—— Prof. Su Dan 

Shadow Play

Shadow Play (pi ying xi), also known as "ying xi" or "ying zi xi," has developed from black silhouettes to colorful plays, bearing people's expectation over thousands of years, and recording the great river of history through the interplay of light and shadow. Shaanxi, as the birthplace of this genre of play, boasts the longest history and the most distinctive performance of Shadow Play, featuring exquisite shadow carving techniques, delicate shapes, multiple tunes, and elegant scripts.

In the cultural corridor, the relatively stereotyped shapes of Shadow Play and the lack of varied narratives make this form of drama fall in an embarrassing situation, making it difficult to be carried on and developed.

Preserving Intangible Craftsmanship

Established in 2017, the Tsinghua University Snow Show Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Fund is dedicated to supporting the research, protection, innovation and development of craftsmanship identified as intangible cultural heritage, based on the platform of the Key Laboratory of Traditional Arts and Materials Research, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (Tsinghua University), relying on the academic resources of the Tsinghua University Academy of Arts & Design and with the vigorous promotion of the Snow Show brand.

This year, the fund project team organized several field visits, communicated closely with intangible cultural heritage experts and inheritors of Shaanxi Shadow Play, and held a "Shaanxi Shadow Play Symposium" around topics such as "Methods and Exploration of Live Transmission of Intangible Cultural Heritage," striving to revitalize the unrecognized pearl from our national cultural heritage.

Based on the exhibition of Shadow Play works, this year's Achievement Exhibition, with a performance repertoire, focuses on the expression of "shadow" in visual pictures. The opening ceremony started with a documentary featuring interviews with shadow puppeteers and the production of shadow puppetry, which authentically presented the pristine and profound heritage of this traditional culture. Later, shadow puppet performers cooperated with vocalists to put up the contemporary shadow puppet experimental drama Chang Zhi Gui (Return at Long Last), which alluded to the root-seeking consciousness. This drama, by combining the shadow play elements with the multimedia animation form, and also integrating new music into the traditional singing of Shadow Play, relates to the story of an overseas Chinese who has been abroad for many years returning to his hometown Yan'an to spend the Spring Festival with his family. The past scenery gave rise to nostalgia, and the alienation on a foreign land set off the warmth of home, while the historical and cultural features of the Yan'an ancient city were presented from a narrative perspective.

By far, the Tsinghua University Snow Show Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Fund has successively completed the protection project of Shanxi lacquer decoration skills (2018 "Cultural Beauty Presented by Lacquer Craft") and the protection project of Yunnan metal crafts (2019 "Cultural Beauty in Metal Craft"), drawing attention from the whole society. In 2020, with the annual theme of "Cultural Beauty in Shadow Play," we embarked on the journey of protecting this intangible cultural heritage of Shadow Play, exploring national treasures and creating Chinese cultural values together.