Hua County Shadow Play

Last updated by david at 2015/11/5

The well-known Chinese film star, Ge You, and his performance in To Live, where he won the Best Actor Award at the celebrated Cannes Film Festival in 1994, impressed many audiences and introduced them to the world of shadow play. Shadow play is the ancient Chinese storytelling art which manipulates elaborately decorated opaque puppet figures in front of a backlit setting in order to illustrate the events. But while Ge You did a fine job of popularizing this particular art method, one should see the skills of the older generation in Hua County of the Shaanxi Province for an even more exemplary example of these play. Shadow plays were first developed over 2000 years ago in Shaanxi, and it is also known as a sheep show, head play, or shadow play. Typically, the shows requires the involvement of several people, some even more than 10 at a time. However, in Hua County, performers have mastered shadow play so much that only one person may cover the skills needed for two roles. As such, the Hua County’s plays have become representative of this type of storytelling art and are very popular in foreign countries, enjoying a respected reputation around the world today. However, because of the popularity of more high-tech audio-visual media in recent years, the chances for shadow play performance are less and less. Instead, the shadows have become a type of popular arts and crafts. Yet, recognizing the importance of shadow plays in the history of China, the German Leather Museum and Japanese Folk Museum have both put Hua County shadows and puppets on display. Furthermore, Hua County’s shadows have been recognized as national non-material pieces of cultural heritage.

Hua County Shadow Play was selected as the Top Undiscovered China Attractions

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