Chinese Shadow Puppetry
A comprehensive informational website
Hubei, Hunan Province and surrounding areas
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The central provinces in China have a diverse array of design aesthetics with Changsha, Hunan Province being the most unique. While all other shadow puppet traditions use a straight 90-degree profile (some ¾ turned faces for specialty characters) the entirety of Changsha’s puppet tradition is with a ¾ turned face (both eyes are visible). The Changsha tradition also uses a mixture of paper, colored translucent wax paper and colored plastic to create their shadow puppets. While some regions use paper instead of leather for religious beliefs, the locals in Changsha explain that is was economical reasons why they chose cheaper materials.
Hubei province boasts a particularly ambitious shadow puppet master who performs daily for his neighborhood of elderly people while also touring and performing in large local venues for younger audiences. His puppets are entirely cut out of plastic because of ease of care (leather is a picky material to preserve well) and affordability. The process is similar and results incredible, but cannot quite capture the organic beauty of the leather puppets.
To read an artist's profile from this region, go to our Profiles pages for a story on Master Qin or click here.