The art of Chinese Shadow Play originated in the Han dynasty more than 2000 years ago.
This ancient performance had its beginnings in the palace of Emperor Wu and then made its way to the rural farming villages across China.
The practice of Shadow Puppetry has dimished greatly over the past 100 years but in the home of Cui Yongping and his wife Wang Shuqin the art is very much alive.
Cui and Wang started their Shadow Puppetry careers when they both joined a puppetry troupe in Beijing in 1959.
Cui was just 14 years old and Wang was 16.
“Cui was the best puppeteer out of all the boys, and I was the best female performer. “
The passion of Shadow Play brought the couple together. Many of their classmates gave up the puppetry along the way but Cui and Wang kept developing their art.
The couple traveled to a lot of countries and found many museums held collections of ancient Chinese Shadow Puppets. This was not the same in their homeland.
Wanting to share their love of puppetry, Cui and Wang set up a museum, hoping to restage the popularity of Shadow Play.
Today, many foreign students come to China to learn Shadow Puppetry from them.
“Overseas students study Shadow Play with me, there’re almost 40.”
“This is just formal apprentices, but many come to us randomly.”
“About 10 of them still have regular contact with me.”
In 1992 Mr Cui suffered a debilitating disease, while he lost his ability to speak, but his work in Shadow Play has helped him gain some of his speech back.
The couple’s puppet family spans the globe and their home is a happy one thanks to the magic of this ancient art-form.
The simplicity of a screen, some light and puppets made from donkey skins has made the traditional stories of China come alive in the eyes of countless audiences.
（英语点津 Helen 编辑）