Puppetry has existed in many parts of the world for as long as 4000 years. But the Vietnamese Art of Water Puppetry is something that is very unique and a culture of water puppetry integral to the Vietnamese people. Water puppetry is exactly as it sounds – puppets dancing and moving along the water, controlled by the invisible hands of the puppet masters. It is not just a great source of entertainment but also a form of art that needs extreme precision and tremendous practice. Mainly in the northern region of Vietnam, The art of puppetry flourished but it spread all over the country through the years.
Water Puppetry in Vietnam
Water puppetry originated from North Vietnam in the 11th century, from the Red River Delta is one of the many traditions that are very close to the hearts of Vietnamese people back when Vietnam witnessed a lengthy period of peace and prosperity after the year 1010, people were motivated to relax more and organize festivals and performances that would later become the country’s traditions. Water puppetry provides a great source of entertainment for both the young ones and elders alike and is a very unique thing to do in Vietnam.
The puppets are portrayed in many creative ways like boys riding on buffalos and dragons appearing suddenly from underwater. The performances are enhanced by the use of music created with instruments like cymbals, drums, horns, single-stringed guitars, etc. Even though the language of delivery is Vietnamese, it is not hard to understand what is being conveyed on stage. The gestures of the puppets are very expressive and the music is executed perfectly in sync with the story and the singers even shout words of encouragement to which the puppets react sharply. In addition to music, the use of light plays a significant role as well to highlight the dramatic parts making the performance even more interesting. There is also a show of fireworks making the night skies colourful and the entire scenery completely breathtaking and giving an amazing night at Vietnam.
History and Evolution of Water Puppetry
Water puppetry served as an entertainment source for the rice farmers of Vietnam in the olden days. The puppet masters would keep their feet deep inside the muddy water and manipulate the puppets with their fingers along the strings on a stage built around the fields. Ever since then, water puppetry has evolved in many ways but it is still very much the same in its essence. This tradition has still remained deep-rooted in rural Vietnam and has spread over in modern theatres in big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City making it a popular form of entertainment.
Thuy Dinh in Vietnamese is called The modern-day water puppetry theatre. The show portrays 7 to 11 puppeteers, seated deep inside the waters while controlling the puppets in perfect sync behind a bamboo screen. The puppets are made of wood and varnished later to make it lightweight as well as durable. They are controlled via underwater rods that are not visible to the naked eye.
Best Water Puppet Shows in Vietnam
1. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, Hanoi:
Thanh Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi, the capital city, is the most famous theatre for water puppetry. It is also the only theatre to run shows for 365 days of the year. During winters, they run additional shows as well. It is advisable to pre-book your tickets because it almost always gets filled. At a shop nearby, you can even buy your own puppets and become puppeteers yourselves!
- Address: 57b Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam.
- Show timings: Summer: 4:10 PM | 5:20 PM | 6:30 PM | 8:00 PM, Winter: 3:00 PM| 4:10 PM | 5:20 PM | 6:30 PM | 8 PM | 9:15 PM
- Sunday: 9:30 AM
- Ticket costs:
- Adult: VND 100,000 per person,
- Children under 1.2m: VND 60,000 per person,
- Camera surcharge: VND 20,000 per camera,
- Camcorder surcharge: VND 60,000 per camcorder
2. Lotus Water Puppet Theatre, Hanoi:
If you don’t get a ticket for Thang Long, don’t worry! Lotus Water Puppet Theatre is the place to stop by. Also located in Hanoi, you can witness the best puppet shows in here as well. The show’s main theme revolves around everyday Vietnamese culture and some traditional folks like the famous Dragon Dance, the show last usually for an hour and it is advised that you get your tickets early to get your preferred seats.
- Address: 16 Lê Thái Tổ, Hàng Trong, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam
- Show timings: Daily- 3:30 PM, 5:00 PM, 6:30 PM, 8:00 PM
- Ticket costs: VND 100,000
3. Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre
Ho Chi Minh, the largest city and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Vietnam has several puppet theatres. One of them is the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre known to attract both national and international visitors. Each show lasts up to 50 minutes where you will get to witness the traditional art of Ho Chi Minh City with the puppets performing on the water surface beautifully managed by the puppeteers. If you are in Vietnam for a short period and are visiting Ho Chi Minh City, this show is a must-see!
- Address: 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Show timings: Daily- 5:00 PM, 6:30 PM, 7:45 PM
- Ticket costs: VND 160,000
4. Yen Duc Village, Quang Ninh:
Yen Duc Village is a more authentic experience of witnessing a water puppet show. The unique feature of this theatre is that the shows are held outdoors in the village. Very spacious and airy, you get to enjoy the performances surrounded by the greenery of orchards and rice fields. The artists behind the puppets are also the locals of the village. There are no fixed timings for the shows so you will have to contact their management to know about shows.
- Address: Yen Duc Village, Dong Trieu, Vietnam
- Show timings: Contact the management of the village to know about the timings
5. Hoi An Theatre:
At the theatre in Hoi An, you will witness water puppetry at its finest forms. The theatre even makes sure that the quality of the water is good and the light and sound effects are smooth as well.
- Address: Hoi An Theater, 548 Hai Ba Trung, Hoi An
- Show timings: Tuesday, Friday, Saturday: 6:30 PM
- Ticket costs:
- Adults: VND 80,000,
- Children: VND 40,000
Many puppeteers spend years to master this craft and this tradition has lasted for centuries. Now that you know a little about water puppetry, you will realize that it is not just a show for pleasure but it is a way of life. In fact, have you really visited Vietnam? if you haven’t visited and not seen the beautiful shows of water puppets.