The Chengdu Shadow Puppet Museum (a branch of the main Chengdu Museum) was recently named China’s Shadow Puppet Museum. To be clear, only one museum in China can receive this honor. Subsequently, they shut down their old museum and are building a bigger and better space near the center of the city. However, during my visit they were still closed to the public. Thanks to Professor Jiang and his former student ChenWenJing, who now works at the museum, I was allowed to see their temporary displays set up in a make-shift office space on the west side of town.
We trudged up a few flights of stairs, passed their temporary offices, and kept trudging upwards to a locked door with no sign.
We paused to wait for a security guard and a few other official looking people to come unlock the door and sign us in.
After a quick scuffle of pens and keys, we were ushered into the adjoining hallway.
What lays beyond is an absolute gold mine of Chinese shadow puppetry. They have everything. All in one place. Even with the temporary displays, the pieces stood for themselves – organized by region or grouped with similar items for comparison.
I floated through seven full rooms of light box after light box. Many things I had seen in pictures before, but many were completely new to me. Human puppets, monsters, creatures, scenic elements, borders – from every region where puppetry was active within the last 200 years.
Gorgeousness abounds. I shall stop talking here and just let the puppets speak for themselves.
(Pardon the shorthand notes, I have not had a chance to transcribe my audio recording – hopefully you get the gist and the breadth of this small sampling of their small sampling of their full collection)
And if you are in Chengdu after Summer 2012 – stop by and see for yourself
Thanks for reading…and looking~
Photo Note: All photos and puppets photographed are from the China Shadow Puppet Museum of Chengdu 成都中国皮影博物馆