‘Reflection of Our Lives’, Traditional Puppetry of Japan, China, and Indonesia

Chinese Fujian Puppetry © NIHC

Traditional puppetry of Japan, China, and Indonesia, which are inscribed on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, will be demonstrated at the National Intangible Heritage Center in Jeonju, Korea, from 5 to 6 October 2018. The performances will be accompanied by an international conference, where the participants will have discussions about the puppetry traditions of the three countries, as well as Korea’s traditional puppetry, kkokdugaksi noreum. The conference subject  is ‘Traditional Puppetry Transmission Status and Puppetry Techniques of Four Asian Countries.’

Puppetry reflects various aspects of our lives, from our emotions to culture, history, and beliefs. The traditional puppetry performances and the conference will tell the stories of the puppets that have been transmitted in different spaces and cultures for hundreds of years.

The Ningyo Johruri Bunraku theater will open the stage on 5 October at 19:00. Bunraku is one of the three foremost stage arts in Japan, along with No and Kabuki. The puppet theater features captivating stories recounted by the narrator called the tayu, deep sophisticated melodies played on the shamisen, and beautiful motions and facial expressions of the puppets manipulated by three puppeteers. Ningyo means puppets, and johruri means narrative traditional music. The contemporary form of ningyo johruri is rooted in the early Edo period (seventeenth century).

On 6 October, the Chinese Fujian puppet theater will be staged at 14:00 and 16:00, and the Indonesian wayang puppet theatre will be showcased at 19:00. The Fujian puppetry is a representative stage art of China that originated during the tenth century in the Minnan region (southern Fujian and Taiwan) in southeastern China. It is characterized by unique puppetry techniques, puppet crafts, and beautiful repertoires of plays and music. Wayang is a traditional form of narrative puppetry originating on Indonesian island of Java. The upcoming puppet play will tell the story of Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic. Wayang puppets are elaborately made of wood and leather. Wayang puppet plays are accompanied by the unique sounds of the gamelan, a traditional bronze instrument.

The international conference will take place on 5 October from 10:00 to 17:00. A special workshop will then follow, where the performing troupe of the National Bunraku Theatre in Osaka will offer the audiences hands-on experiences.