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The Academic Symposium on “Gaojia Opera” Puppetry

26 April 2015

SOAS University of


UK Research and Development Centre for Chinese Traditional Culture


Shanghai Theatre Academy


Fujian Quanzhou Gaojia Theatre Troupe

School of Oriental and African Studies Chinese Student & School Association

A academic symposium hosted by the British Academy of Chinese Traditional Culture on "Research on the Traditional Art of the Han -Puppetry" invited professional researchers and actors from the Shanghai Theatre Academy and the Fujian Quanzhou Gaojia Theatre Troupe and presented a wonderful opera puppet show "Beauty and the Beast" for the guests present.

A Chinese puppet show/shadow play is a play that uses puppets to perform stories, one of the traditional arts of Han cultural. Chinese puppet shows have a long history, and the general view is: "it originated in the Han and was flourished in the Tang". In the Three Kingdoms period, there were already puppets who could perform acrobatics, and the Sui people began to use puppets to perform stories. During the performance, the actors manipulated the puppets behind the scenes and sing along with music.

The performers showed their “magical powers” and performed the classic Western fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" by combining the Chou role (junior clowns) of the Quanzhou Gaojia Opera and the Japanese music puppet show. The whole play was concise and simple. Under simple stage props, lighting, and music composition, with a few cast members, the story line was vividly outlined: the beginning of the play used a rose as a foreshadowing of the second half. The use of Japanese music puppets depicted the transformation of the prince and the beast, and table puppets revealed the transformation from the Chou clowns to the dwarfs. It enhanced the play’s visual effect, combing the real and the illusive.

In this lecture, experts introduced the characteristics, production and performance of the puppets and stick puppets, as well as the origin, history and performance of Tangshan and Shaanxi shadow puppets. The guest speakers also brought hand puppets, string puppets, stick-head puppets, and wire puppets, and guided on how to operate them.

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