Beyond the shadow

Beyond the shadow

Our junior reporters meet a Dutch professor who's fascinated by an art form involving Chinese puppets, then make their own and put on a show with them

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Junior Shadow_L
Photos: John Kang/SCMP
Shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling. From March 29 to April 7, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden invited the Taiwan Taiyuan Puppet Theatre to perform a shadow puppet show in Hong Kong. The troupe has performed in more than 20 countries.

Two junior reporters, sisters Nola and Minnie Yip, watched the show, interviewed the artistic director of the company, Dr Robin Ruizendaal, and made their own shadow puppets.

Shadowy skills


Junior reporters put on a shadow puppet show with the puppets they made.

The shadow puppet workshop took place in a classroom that reminded me of my primary school, so it was the perfect place to do arts and crafts again. Shadow puppets are made from cardboard because it's stronger than normal paper.

Though they may not look great in normal daylight, their shadows are amazing. By adjusting the distance between the shadow puppet and the light, you can vary the size of the shadow. For example, placing the puppet far from the screen, then suddenly moving it close to the light creates the effect of the puppet coming towards you, like a 3D film. It's great for scaring young audiences!

The show we watched was called Little Fish. It is about a little fish living at the bottom of the hill called Kwun Yum Shan. These shows are great family entertainment and very rare nowadays. With so much violence around, it's good to know shadow puppetry is guaranteed to be safe because it's all shadows!

Nola Yip


Expert knowledge from overseas


Junior reporters Minnie (left) and Nola Yip make puppets with Dr Robin Ruizendaal.

Dr Ruizendaal, a Dutchman interested in culture and traditions of all kinds, told us of his fascination with Chinese puppets.

When he was a teenager, he became gripped by Chinese culture and history. "Chinese civilisation seemed very rich and difficult, so I decided to study it," he said. Ruizendaal became proficient in Chinese language, literature, culture and history. His dedication and knowledge make me feel ashamed that I, as a Chinese person, don't know more myself!

At university, Ruizendaal chose to research Chinese puppetry, and he was amazed by the art, music and religion that are incorporated into this unique form of entertainment. He's been studying and performing the art ever since.

Over the years, Ruizendaal has lived in Xiamen, Fujian, and Taiwan. He has noticed that the art is becoming less important in China. Fortunately, in Taiwan shadow puppet shows are still popular enough to be shown on television.

As well as Hong Kong, Ruizendaal will be stopping off in Israel, Mexico, Columbia, Peru and Denmark to share this sophisticated traditional entertainment. His goal during the tour: "I don't want them to fall asleep during the show!"

Minnie Yip

Young Post organises regular activities for our junior reporters. If you wish to join, send your name, age, school and contact details to reporters.club@scmp.com with "jun rep application" in the subject field

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