Puppetry is common throughout the world, but puppetry theatre of
Vietnam on water is unique. The art of water puppetry appeared in
the Ly dynasty (1010-1225). Vestiges of evidence have been found in
several places such as the pavilion on water by the Long Tri lake in
the Thay Pagoda, Ha Tay province.
puppetry was developed in lake and pond-rich areas in the Red River
Delta. The surface of water serves as the stage while spectators sit
at the edge of water. The puppeteers both male and female stand
waist-deep in the water to manipulate the puppets making them move
about and even dance on the surface of the water. The water serves
not only to hide the puppeteers and strings of the puppets but also
to create a trembling stage full of reflection, while providing
natural amplification for singing puppeteers accompanied by
percussion music and fire crackers.
In the old days, puppeteers grouped together into guilds. Nowadays,
they are brought together in the National Water Puppetry Theatre and
various provincial and even private troupes.
Every puppet is a piece of real folk sculpture. It is made of wood,
painted with water-proof lacquer. The prominent character is buffoon
Teu with a plump body and a humorous smile. When the curtain is
raised, the merry, arch Teu enters onto the stage and introduces the
A considerable repertoire of traditional water puppet plays still
get a big hand from the audience. They include the Teu Dance,
Buffalo Fighting, Duck Tender Chasing Fox and Chess Playing.