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Lesson Plans

Re: Vietnamese art/water puppets

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Sat, 21 Feb 1998 19:13:14 -0600

At 12*16 PM 2/21/98, ARTxpress wrote:
>Elementary school Art Specialist request information on Vietnam Art (sic).
>I am
>creating a work station for 6th grade unit on Vietnam. Have planned to do
>Sumi and Gyotaku (fish printing). Any suggestions or publications would be
>appreciated. kjf

I was fortunate to have visited Vietnam a few summers ago and engage in
discussions, demonstrations and hands on research in various areas of
cultural/fine arts. One of the most amazing things I learned was the
hybridization of much of Vietnamese culture which in one respect stems from
its history of oppression and subjugation. There are Chinese, Japanese,
French and of course American influences. One of the unique cultural forms
I learned about was "Water Puppetry."

According to a legend in a stone carving dating from 1121, in Long Doi Son
Pagoda in Nam Ha province there was a Buddhist priest named Tu Dao Hanh who
was loved and worshiped by the people of his village. He studied hard and
became a shaman who healed many people of the village. One of his legacies
was to have saved the entire village from disease and in his memory, the
king built the Co Le Pagoda. On Sept. 15th a ceremony began to celebrate
the anniversary of his death, which also corresponded with much of the
harvesting ceremonies. Since much of Vietnam is covered with small ponds
and lakes, the citizens would perform a puppet act in which the actors
would float puppets on the surface of the water while they would hide
beneath the surface. The ancient art form is performed today to celebrate
fishing catches, harvests, battles with the Chinese, and everyday genre
scenes (such as catching frogs, dancing, and children playing on the
There are at least two well known water puppet troupes in Hanoi. One is
the "Thang Long Water Puppet Troupe" and other is "The Song Ngoc Water
Puppetry Troop." I am sure you can get information from the ministry of
culture in Hanoi, contact the groups yourself (I have the Phone and Fax #'s
if you want), or do a search for the water puppets elsewhere. It is a
dynamic and exciting show of puppetry, fireworks, water acrobatics and
storytelling. I taught a unit on them to fifth graders a few years back
and we made our own puppets and put on a play in a small inflatable pool.
Good Luck.

Kevin Michael Tavin Ph.D. Candidate
Dept. of Art Education
The Pennsylvania State University
School of Visual Arts