I arrived in Hong Kong with little knowledge of how influential this trip would turn out to be. My dear friend Albert Chan welcomed me to his home with quite the handful of surprises.
The visit started out as I expected, sight seeing and visits to Albert's favorite places around Kowloon and Hong Kong but the surprise started when we went to Albert's office for, what I though to be a quick pit stop. It turned out to be a private showing of a performance by Hong Kong's most experienced puppet master. After the show I got to meet all the puppeteers and talk one on one with the puppet master. He showed me each puppet and let me play around with them. The show ended with me attempting to recreate one of the scene from the performance–for not having a lifelong career with these puppets as the master did, I feel I held my own. Afterward Albert revealed the next surprise; a trip to Quanzhou in mainland China.
Quanzhou is the city where traditional Chinese puppetry is most prominently performed and preserved. The Quanzhou Marionette Troupe are an exelent example of this.
The troupe specializes in marionette performances with many talented puppeteers who have undergone a five year training in manipulating the complex puppets. A Chinese marionette usually has up to 50 strings attached to a paddle control bar. After holding and attempting to control the puppet myself it made sense why you need five years of practice.
We then went to see the puppet builder in town, who supplies the local companies with all the puppets. As a puppet builder myself I could not help but admire the shop and all the tools that went into the construction of a puppet. And finally the trip ended with a show of a life time. We went to a show by another Quanzhou puppet company, Jinjiang City Puppet Theater, who specialize in hand puppetry. We had the wonderful opportunity to watch the production as an audience member as well as going backstage to meet the performers and watch them at their artistry.
The spectacle was so big that a local reporter was there. After talking it them for a bit they found my story so fascinating that they decided to put it on the front page of the next days edition.
Truly an amazing experience to wrap up the trip with (and quite the souvenir). It is difficult knowing that this ancient form of puppetry is dying out, knowing that I am honored to have had the opportunity to study this art form in person and get to know the people pulling the strings of Chinese puppetry.