Video China World Entertainment Sports Lifestyle  

Beijing exhibition displays 400 characters by Xu Zhuchu

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail CNTV, January 18, 2016
Adjust font size:


Puppets are not just a form of entertainment but a window into human nature, culture and history. That's the way renowned puppet maker Xu Zhuchu sees things. In order to rekindle a love of puppet theater, he has donated 400 of his hand-made creations to Beijing's National Art Museum of China.

Beijing exhibition displays 400 characters by Xu Zhuchu 

Xu's puppets present an encyclopaedic insight into Chinese folk history. Among his varied cast are some of the the most memorable characters from Chinese legends, including "Journey to the West" and "Romance of the Three Kingdoms".

During his 60 years as a puppet-maker, Xu has become a keen observer of both human nature and human expression.

"Puppet-making is a delicate art, you have to find a way to make your puppet come alive. For example, when carving a clown character, you don't directly imitate the facial make-up of the local operas. You have to work on the facial features to make them perfectly match the character - such as skinny faces, sharp-pointed jaws, narrow long eyes, to reveal an intelligent yet cunning character. And I think that's why Zhangzhou puppets were among the first batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage; they have that power to fire people's imaginations," Xu said.

A native of Fujian province, Xu was born into a family with a long tradition of puppet carving. And the legacy lives on in him. His works have appeared not just on stage but in puppet films and are highly prized by collectors.

But he worries for the future of the artform.

"Puppet drama is a dying art. Young people only have time to watch TV, movies, and play video games nowadays. Hopefully through this exhibition, young people will always have a chance to know about puppet drama," Xu said.

Apart from the vivid facial expressions and the costumes, the inner workings of the puppets are equally impressive, for example moveable chins or jaws.

"The head contains mechanisms used to control facial muscles. The puppeteer can insert his forefinger into the hollow neck, and his thumb and middle finger into each sleeve, to control the head and hands. Skilled puppeteers can even do highly difficult actions such as opening a folding fan, changing clothes, brandishing a sword, fighting, and jumping out of a window, all to the surprise of the audience," Xu said.

At the National Art Museum, visitors can also try putting on a puppet show themselves. The exhibition runs until the end of February.


Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from