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Chinese shadow puppertry

As night falls, people gather in front of the stage. Along with Chinese percussion instruments, stories are told through leather cut-out figures, which are held in the hands of puppeteers behind the translucent cloth screen. The figures appear to move like actors in a movie. And this is Chinese shadow puppertry.

A romantic story was recorded in Chinese history. 2000 years ago, Emperor Wu of Han lost his beloved concubine. He missed her so much after her death. His officials then made the image of the concubine with a piece of cloth, and performed for the emperor. Seeing the image moving vividly, his sorrow was greatly relieved, as if his lover had come back to him again. The process to make a shadow puppet is mainly carved out of sheepskin, cowhide or donkey skin after careful cleaning.

But the most difficult part is to make it vividly, so elaborate designs are necessary when it comes to color, costume, facial expression and even eye contact. Then it was made articulated and manipulated with attached canes.

To make an exquisite set of shadow puppets meeting performance standard, a total amount of eight steps are involved. In 2011, Chinese shadow puppetry was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.