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Encyclopedia > Shadow puppet

A shadow puppet is a puppet intended for performance at night or in a darkened interior space. Instead of the audience viewing the puppet directly, they view its shadow, cast either by a fire or by electric light. Probably the best-known form of shadow puppet is the Indonesian wayang kulit. For hundreds of years, the people of Indonesia have used shadow puppets to tell epic tales called the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. The epics reenact the history and mythology of the people bringing demons, warriors gods, goddesses, and fabulous animals to the shadow screen. Through these plays, people who cannot read can learn about their culture and heritage. The performances, acted out at night, can last for several days. Many in the audience know the stories by heart. In the tale "Ramayan", the god Rama saves his wife, Sita, from the demon, Ravan, with the help of the monkey-god Hanuman. Sita is kidnapped and taken to the island of Ceylon. There is a lot of fighting and aerial acrobatics. Sita is returned to her husband after the demon king, Ravan is beheaded. Shadow puppetry originated in China two thousand years ago. The legend of its creation tells of the Emperor WuTi and his favorite courtesan, Lady Li. Lady Li died an untimely death which sent the Emperor into a depression so deep that he would not govern, eat or sleep. His court magician was summoned to him and asked to bring LadyLi back to life. The magician had an idea: by cutting out the figure of Lady Li and casting its shadow on a candle lit screen, he retold the courtship of the lovers. Emperor WuTi was lifted from his depression as he saw his love come to life. The Chinese believe that the spirit is manifested inthe shadow and brought to Earth through the art of the shadow puppetteer. Emperor WuTi declared Shadow Puppet Theater a High Art form to be brought to all corners of his empire. And so it was. A puppet is any controlled character, whether formed by a shadow, strings, by the use of a glove, by direct mechanical contrivance (for example a cable-controlled figure for film or TV) or electronic guidance (such as a radio or infrared remote controller). ... Wayang is the Indonesian term for puppet, and the term refers to any and all of the numerous varieties of puppetry found in the archipelago. ...


 
 

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