picture taken by Jepoirrier
While we were in Ho Chi Minh we had tried to get tickets to the water puppet show that is famous throughout Vietnam however we couldn’t manage to get tickets so when we were in Hue and we heard that they had the puppet show then we booked through our concierge to watch that night.
We were so glad that we did as we were the only foreigners in the audience unlike if we had gone in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. In Hue we were amongst the locals as the Vietnamese chatted amongst themselves as they waited for the forty minute performance to start. The water puppetry dating as far back as the 11th century originally started in the Red Delta the area consisting of eight provinces and the municipality of Hanoi. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other with the puppets.
The pond a murky, browny colour with the stage and water in darkness suddenly burst to light as Teu, a robust young man(puppet) white bold stomach, wearing a loin cloth, a vibrant character full of jest and love, the heart and soul of water puppetry always smiling. He sings and introduces the show which of course is entirely in Vietnamese but never fails to captivate the audience.
The puppets made out of lacquered wood weigh up to fifteen kilograms with a bamboo rod attached to the puppet as the puppeteer stands in waist deep water behind a screen as the puppets swirl graciously on the surface of the water. The show moves quickly through the eleven skits following local folklore and myths of life in the villages.
The scenes tell stories of four mythical animals the unicorn, dragon, tortoise and phoenix explode on the water as the unicorns fight for the ball. The phoenixes swim peacefully in happiness in hope that human couples will resemble the love that lasts forever just like the phoenix.
Photo taken by Sura Ark of Phoenix birds
After each skit it made you think of what stories these characters portrayed and how some of the beliefs that were created centuries ago still could relate to Vietnam now like the farmers working in the field men ploughing while women grow rice. A family breeding ducks only for a fox to catch one. The traditional boats which villages use for racing during the rainy season all happen today.
Photo taken by Sura Ark of local farmers doing their work
The movements of the puppets are graciously done and while watching you forget that people actually control these puppets when it ends the screen is raised and the proud puppeteers standing in water gladly accept the round of applause and cheers from the audience.
Photo taken by Sura Ark
How to get there
We went to the show by taxi but the driver didn’t understand water puppets show. We had to show him where it roughly was on the city map of Hue. Then he was able to take us straight there.
Address 08 Le Loi Street Hue
Tel 054 3834 779
Get someone from your hotel or guesthouse to make a booking for you.
Have you been to the water puppet shows in Vietnam? We would love to hear all about it in the comment box below.