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Minnan Marionettes
Updated: 2014-01-14

Marionettes - puppets controlled from above with wires or strings – also play a part in local traditional culture, as Quanzhou marionette drama originated in this city of southern Fujian during the Qin and Han dynasties.

The art form is also referred to as string puppetry, and the marionettes are controlled by many strings attached to a rounded rectangular paddle with a short handle. All the strings hang from the outer edge of the paddle and are used by selecting each string with the opposite hand and pulling to control the figure which hangs below. In a marionette play, there are two actors - one of them holds the strings of all the marionettes, and the other uses gongs and cymbals.

Minnan (southern Fujian) marionette plays express many traditional beliefs and customs included in weddings and funerals in the area of Fujian and Taiwan, and became popular in Quanzhou and the surrounding areas during the Five Dynasties period.

It thrived during the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, and a total of more than 700 traditional plays and "puppet melodies" survive today. The marionette theatre of Pinnan, Fujian province, is influenced by Taoist ritual and also retains the tone of the art form during the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties.

Traditional plays include Liu Chenxiang, The Story of Rabbits, Luoyang Bridge, Journey to the West, The Story of Double Righteousness and Eight Diagrams.

Edited by Wang Yifei and Niva Whyman