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Handmade vs. Machine Made

Can you tell the difference?


​While traditional Chinese shadow puppet performances have struggled to keep their audience, the puppets themselves have been growing the numbers of fans due to their decorative value and beauty.  On one hand, this is great – but as many of us equate China with the cheap knock-off, shadow puppetry is no different.

Just a few years back, someone figured out that they could mass produce these precious puppets with a laser machine, which eliminates any skilled manual labor.  Of course, anyone who hasn’t laid eye on the puppets before wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  Tourist have been gobbling them up by the bag full – such a good deal, they’re thinking.

And while I don’t have a problem with machine made crafts in general, I do have a problem with sellers not being forthcoming about it and buyers not knowing what they’ve just bought.  This is usually the case.


The volume of machine made puppets has nearly eliminated the need for skilled puppet makers and kept only the very top master cutters in business.  These master cutters are still only able to operate in the collectors realm as the average Joe wouldn’t be able to see the difference enough to warrant the hike in price tag.

What I’ve made here is a downloadable, printable PDF on how to identify a handmade shadow puppet from the machine made ones.  Again, this is not to discourage the purchase of machine made puppets, but simply to be able to provide you with the knowledge on how to differentiate if you so choose.

There are many many indicators to indentify handmade from machine made – the pdf only covers the simplest one.  Feel free to look it over or even print it out to carry with you while you shop.

Just right click to 'save as' or download to your desktop.

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