A Revolution in Shadows

Even though shadow puppetry was widely banned throughout the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), performances still took place. Most of these were pre-approved stories and dramas that towed the line for the New Republic of China, replacing stories of warlords and emperors and other eradicated roles in society.

Many troupes preferred to lay down their shadows all together, rather than take up this new directive. Some troupes weren’t given the choice. Since the 1980s, these shows have not been performed much, if at all. And, when asked about them, I usually get a muttered and incomprehensible answer. Probably, it’s a subject most would like to forget.

Still, I love what few Communist-era shadow puppets I have been able to glimpse. The aesthetic is so different, so modern and simplified – and still so striking. Politics do nothing to sway me here – the puppets are beautiful. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading and looking~

These puppets are all housed in the Luanzhou Shadow Puppet Museum in Hebei Province.

Note: The soldiers in green are Communist soldiers; soldiers in gold/yellow are Guomindang (Kuomintang) or the National Revolutionary’s Army soldiers.












6 responses to “A Revolution in Shadows

  1. Thank you ! The shadows puppet’s are very beautifull

  2. Pamela Bridges

    These puppets are very interesting. Keep up the new postings. I wish I could see this museum.

  3. Trish Martin

    Hi Annie So interesting…..armed and ready for battle! The hat on one of the soldiers looks like a fashion able safari hat. Thanks for keeping everyone informed! See you soon Trish

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Pamela Bridges

    Annie, I just went to the Field Museum in Chicago to see their Terracotta Warriors exhibit and the hall of China. I saw the warriors in China 20 years ago and was amazed at the other types of statues they have found since. Part of what I saw was a video of a shadow puppet play of a legend. It was filmed at the museum Jan 2015 but the troupe performing was from New York. Very humorous. There is a small display of puppets as well.

  5. Hi Pamela! I heard it’s a great exhibit. I helped them with some photos. Can’t wait to visit in person – so glad you got to see it!

  6. Pamela Bridges

    Happy Thanksgiving!  I finally saw the shadow puppets  in the Chinese Thorne room at the Art Institute in Chicago. I talked with the curator about the planning to include them in the Christmas room. You did a fantastic job in creating them. They are very much like the shadow puppets at the Field Museum and the video they show of a play. I took my grandchildren to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Chinese exhibit this summer.Best wishes for the New Year, Pam Bridges

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