Shadow play (Pi Ying Xi), a traditional Chinese art form originating in the Han Dynasty, has impressed hundreds of thousands of people with its unique charm. However, the shadow play is disappearing. The government has put it on the list of National Nonmaterial Cultural Heritage to save this precious art
In a shadow play, shadows of ingenious leathern puppet images are projected onto a thin curtain by background lighting. Then the artists will move them behind the screen following the music and singing, to tell the moving tales and legends to the audiences.
Shadow play requires very precise movement of the fingers to make the puppets coordinate with the sound effect, and all the artists must have a very good voice, as they have to sing themselves. A good shadow play artists' training usually starts in his/her childhood, or it will never make perfect coordination of finger movement and good voice out of him/her.
Currently there is a very famous family shadow play troupe in Shandong Province named Cheng. They give more than 60 shows every year, bringing joys to many villages.
The puppets made by Cheng's troupe are the favorite items of collectors, and some of them have even been collected by Shandong Museum.
(Chinanews.cn September 26, 2006)