Qibao Shadow Play
Today, the town of Qibao(七宝镇Qībǎo Zhèn) celebrates their cultural heritage and works to preserve the past traditions of Shadow Play(皮影戏píyǐngxì) that are such an important aspect of the town’s history. Though the Chinese government does help to keep these valuable traditions alive through various forms of support, it is the local puppeteers and their apprentices who really ensure that the art of Shadow Play lives on.
An eighth generation shadow puppeteer, Mr Chu, is currently the head of the Qibao Shadow Play troupe. Mr Chu values the history and culture that surrounds the art, believing shadow play to be one of the seven cultural treasures in the Qibao area.
Growing up in the small town of Qibao, Mr Chu became interested in shadow puppetry very early in his life and began his apprenticeship as a puppeteer. During his interview, he discussed how watching an old artist who did Shadow Play was an integral part of his learning process.
While the aesthetic design of the shadow plays is important, the narrative elements of the show promote intangible meaning and value. Described by Chu as “painting with motion”, Shadow Play is the combination of many different arts. The incorporation of movement with the intricately designed figures makes Shadow Play much like an animation. Apart from the visual qualities of shadow puppetry, the plays also have dialogue, instruments, and opera music – it is a combination of folk art and opera.