Water puppetry has been a long tradition dating back as far as the 11th century CE originating in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The ancient art of Vietnamese water puppets stems from the tradition that rice paddies were flooded and villagers stood in the waist-deep water with the puppets and performed a mini show of puppets over the water. A large rod which supports the puppet under the water is used by the puppeteers to move the puppets across the water.
Nowadays, water puppet shows are performed in a pool of water at modern theatre. The puppets are controlled by no more than eight puppeteers hiding behind a bamboo screen. Today’s performances usually include a number of short sketches rather than one long story. These sketches reflect the Vietnamese rural life, agricultural harvests, dances and legend. The live music plays an integral part of the show with singers often shouting words of encouragement to the puppets.
The art of water puppetry should not be missed when you are in Hanoi.