Water puppets are the unique and beautiful of Vietnamese culture.
Back to the 10th century, at the gap between 2 main crops in a year, the fields always covered with water. Besides, the Northern village has many ponds and lakes. Therfore, by rice-growing, farmers made these water puppet as a way to celebrate the end of the rice harvest, religious festivals and other important occasions.
Nowadays, the artisan group often comes from the countryside where water puppetry has been invented since thousands of years ago. Water puppetry is a unique folk art, however, only a few people are continuing this art.
One puppet artist may have spent half of his life to make countless numbers of water puppets such as a dragon, a frog or Chu Teu. The dragon can spurt fire and water, meanwhile the frog can snatch bait. One of the most unique character puppet is Chu Teu. He can joint in his hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders that allow him to catch fish and raise a flock of ducks.
Furthermore, costume designers and specialists in sound and light have added razzle-dazzle to the play through clothes, accessories and interior designs.
Artisans must be good at carving and have a sound knowledge of the complicated movements of water puppets. To create a puppet, the most important matter is how to bring the cultural features of the Vietnamese village inside them. Each water puppet is hand-carved from wood and given layers of vivid lacquer paint to protect it from the water. Te artists have to give each puppet at least 10 layers of paint. It takes just 3 days to finish a wooden puppet but it takes up to 15 days to make a water puppet.
Topic for puppet show is often about working action and production or the legends. People love the fairy tales in the puppet showcase because of their humanity. The stories are not only for young readers, but their deepth is also meaningful.
A performance puppet costs between VND300,000 ($13) and VND1.8 million ($78), while a puppet for display is about VND150,000-VND300,000.