JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

Check out this 300-year-old water puppetry village on the outskirts of Hanoi

Sunday, December 06, 2020, 09:47 GMT+7
Check out this 300-year-old water puppetry village on the outskirts of Hanoi
Artisan Ngo Minh Phong teaches children in Hanoi’s Dao Thuc Village how to manipulate puppets on the water stage. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Dao Thuc, a 300-year-old village about 30km from the heart of Hanoi, is an ode to one of Vietnam’s most prized cultural relics – water puppetry.

For more than three centuries, Dao Thuc villagers have been keeping the art of traditional water puppetry alive, a cultural relic they believe their ancestor, Nguyen Dang Vinh, brought to the town when he chose it as his retirement home.

Vinh, who had served as a high-ranking military official during the reign of Vietnamese Emperor Le Y Tong (1735-1740), divided the village into several industrial wards, including Thao Ward for building and carpentry, Coi Ward for producing rice-hulling mills, and Roi Ward for water puppetry.

During his military service, Vinh met many water puppetry troupes and had the opportunity to experience their unique performances. 

When he moved to Dao Thuc, he brought their techniques with him to share with the villagers.  

Water puppetry in Dao Thuc slowly fell out of popularity until 1984 when the International Puppetry Association, UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette – International Puppetry Association) of UNESCO, and the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (formerly the Hanoi Puppetry Troupe) helped the village revive the ancient art form.

War veteran and retired colonel Dinh The Van, a hero of Vietnam’s armed forces, is among the local artisans who have contributed a lot to the preservation and development of puppetry in Dao Thuc Village.

Apart from performing classical puppetry shows for younger generations, Van composes new shows with scripts stemming from his memories and experiences as a soldier.

Among his works are a script depicting 12 nights in Hanoi during a fight against U.S. forces in the 1960s as well a production which combines Teu and Ba Khia – two well-known fictional characters from northern and southern Vietnam – into a single puppetry show. 

Van proudly servs as the narrator for many of the village’s shows as well.

Dao Thuc has more than 30 actors and actresses, singers, and instrument players involved in its water puppetry industry.

All of them are unpaid volunteers who take part in the troupe out of passion for the unique art form.

Dinh The Van teaches young artisan Dinh The Dung how to create and restore puppets. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Dinh The Van teaches young artisan Dinh The Dung how to create and restore puppets. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Dinh The Van is eagerly awaiting for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to pass and audiences to return. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Dinh The Van is eagerly awaiting for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to pass and audiences to return. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Nearly all of the Dao Thuc water puppeteers are volunteers who take part in the troupe out of love for their ancestor’s art. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Nearly all of the Dao Thuc water puppeteers are volunteers who take part in the troupe out of love for their ancestor’s art. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

A water puppet stage built in 2019 in Hanoi’s Dao Thuc Village. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

A water puppet stage built in 2019 in Hanoi’s Dao Thuc Village. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Veteran artisan shows off puppets to local children. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Veteran artisan shows off puppets to local children. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Artisan Dinh The Van hopes the village will maintain its water puppetry roots long into the future. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Artisan Dinh The Van hopes the village will maintain its water puppetry roots long into the future. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Artisans and puppeteers pay tribute to the village’s ancestors who brought water puppetry to locals. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Artisans and puppeteers pay tribute to the village’s ancestors who brought water puppetry to locals. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thanh / Tuoi Tre

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!

Kim Thoa - Hoang Ngoc Thach / Tuoi Tre News

Read more

Photo

Video

Saigon barbers turn ordinary trucks into mobile salons

The tiny mobile hair salons have enough space for four barbers and four customers at a time

Vietnamese man follows passion to transform bamboo nodes into spiritual artworks

He now pours his passion into the creation of spiritual works derived from bamboo.

This woman revives Vietnamese Dong Ho folk paintings on peepal leaves

She recreates folk paintings on the withered leaves