Ge Yunfeng: Telling Chinese Stories with Shadow Puppets
六月 30,2023

Ge Yunfeng, tall in figure, but amazed the audience with his gentle performance on stage, bringing shadow puppet to life all in a sudden.

Ge Yunfeng, head of the shadow puppet troupe of the Dalian Culture Center, is recognized as a representative inheritor of the Fuzhou shadow puppet, a United Nations intangible heritage project. When it comes to the history of Fuzhou shadow puppet, Ge Yunfeng, a 46-year-old man, has a lot to say.

Shadow puppet, said to originate in the Han Dynasty, is a unique style of opera in which artists use their hands to manipulate puppets to perform. It integrates carving, fine arts, music, and performance, leaving a profound impact on China’s opera art. Fuzhou shadow puppet is an important branch of the ancient Chinese shadow puppet art, which embodies the essence from Shaanxi, Hebei and Shandong, and integrates the local customs of Fuzhou, making it more exquisite and vivid. It covers social life, celebrates virtue and lashes out at evil, often in a humorous way, gaining great popularity among local people.

Ge Yunfeng told reporters, “the puppet is flat, with only a side face, while the traditional performance has no dubbing, just like a mime. As time goes by, fewer audience goes to the show. In recent years, we are seeking for innovation on the puppet used. Breakthroughs have been made on its appearance, technology adopted, and even performance forms, thus regaining popularity among some audience.”

Ge Yunfeng takes the play The Three Monkeys as an example. It is more like a live performance of a cartoon film, with flips, jumps and dodges, all relying on complex finger movements. He says that as the youngest shadow puppet troupe in Dalian, they are closer to modern people in their creative thinking and their plays can better meet children’s needs, such as The Little White Rabbit and the Big Bad Wolf and The Three Monkeys, all carrying profound meanings and are suitable for children to watch. At present, the troupe has adapted more than 10 plays, and The Little Match Girl won the Golden Lion Award (the highest national award in the shadow puppet performances) on behalf of Liaoning at the Sichuan Shadow Puppet Festival.

Ge Yunfeng and his troupe members have also given shadow puppet a strong vitality through their efforts. Every year, Ge Yunfeng’s troupe gives dozens of performances to the public, allowing people to get close to and experience the shadow puppet. Ge Yunfeng said, “shadow puppet is the traditional performance closest to animation, which is easy for children to accept. It has Chinese symbols and the charm of Chinese culture. My wish is to tell Chinese stories with shadow puppet, let children understand traditional Chinese culture and enhance their sense of cultural identity.”

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