Imagine swimming dragons blowing fire, a dance of immortal fairies raising their arms in unison, two lions fighting for a magical ball, firecrackers, unicorns and phoenixes in a beautiful water dance and strange and melodic sounds coming from 6 musicians on either side of a theater stage which is a pool of water.  Imagine the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater, a tradition of water puppetry which has been around for over a thousand years with origins in the Ly Dynasty.

Ancient artistic traditions such as Vietnamese water puppetry arise out of rituals which mark off and celebrate harvests and religious festivals that are significant to cultural story and place. In northern Vietnam, along the Mekong river delta, farmers created this tradition during the flood season.  Water provided the stage for mythic and ancient legends as well as to provide the reflective, dynamic and symbolic platform for puppets to appear and disappear as the puppeteers performed in waist deep water. The stories told through the puppets were ritualistic celebrations of community events such as the harvesting of rice.

The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater performed their magic at Spoleto this year in Charleston, SC.  It was a spectacular event in a beautiful tented venue with a gigantic pool of water, six musicians with unusual instruments, and a participatory audience.  Having experienced this amazing puppetry tradition, I can see how this ancient art form is still alive today.

Arts in Medicine

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater