Water puppetry is a traditional form of folk arts that originally appeared in the Red River Delta in the North of Vietnam in the period of Ly Dynasty in 11th century. It can be claimed that water puppetry has a crucial spiritual value which is very close to the traditional culture and history of ancient Hanoi people.
Puppets are made from a special kind of wood called “Sung” which is featured with lightweight that makes the puppets floated and easy to be controlled under the surface of water. Puppets then are lacquered by different colors basing on the specific costume and role of each character. The outstanding feature that makes Vietnamese water puppetry is unique and different is its stage which is performed on water, whereas other kinds of puppetry in the world performed on ground. During the performance, puppets are controlled via the system of poles and long strings hidden under the water surface by puppeteers standing in waist-deep water behind the bamboo curtain of the water stage. The characters’ lines and background music are all presented by the term of singing Cheo – a popular traditional music performance in the North of Vietnam. Singers and an orchestra of Cheo sitting behind the scene are responsible for dubbing over characters and singing while playing traditional instruments such as bamboo flutes, wooden bells, vocals, cymbals and drums.
One of the most famous characters who closely associated with the Vietnamese traditional water puppetry as well as Hanoian culture through hundreds years named “Teu”. He is a little boy who has a plump body and funny face and always jokes with everybody. Nowadays, the image of Teu has been become a spiritual symbol of water puppetry which is well-known by many Vietnamese generations and it has been widely introduced to foreign visitors as a unique product of Vietnam tourism.
All in all, Vietnamese water puppetry is considered as a form of art performance in Vietnam and it has been widely introduced to international community. It is certified by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.The audience will have a great time to enjoy this kind of traditional art performance of Vietnam as well as learn more about Vietnamese history with the ancient legends, traditional music, amazing living puppets and colorful flags that hopefully bring to them cheers and joys.