Vietnam, Water and Puppets

How are Water Puppets Made?

A water puppet stands on a round wooden plate which can rotate around its horizontal axis with a rudder at the bottom. The plate is linked with a long pole which the puppeteer uses to move the puppet on the water. Ropes or string run from the puppet’s articulation through pulleys and along the pole to the performers.

To move puppets to a far distance from the manipulation room, poles with pulleys are placed under the water to connect the strings between puppets and performers.

With the skilful manipulation by the performers, the puppets can swim, catch fish, cross sword, row a boat, raise a flock of ducks, dance, jump high in the sky, spurt fire and kick a ball.

Puppets maker must be good at designing, wood sculpture and have a good knowledge of the complicated movements of water puppets.

When working out a water puppet item, first of all artisans think of movements and operation mechanism of puppets in order to make puppets with proper structures.

For istance, Uncle Teu has two arms moving around a vertical axis. Fairies‘ arms can wave around the axis perpendicular to their body. Teu’s arms has a single articulation while fairies’s arms have joints at their hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. More complicated puppets have very special structures: dragons that can sprut fires and water, fishes or frogs that snatch bait.

Source: Pham Hoang Hai, “Traditional Water Puppetry”

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This entry was published on February 20, 2012 at 23:35. It’s filed under water puppets' notes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

28 thoughts on “How are Water Puppets Made?

  1. Hey, I am a highschool student doing a research paper on Vietnamese Water puppetry and the structures of the puppets, and how the structures of the puppets change based on their structures. If you could contact me through email so I could get more information on this because it is hard to find and you seem well- informed. I also bought the book you reference, but if you have anything else to add, please contact me. Thanks in advance for this, your website alone will be a good resource.

  2. Brittany Hewitt on said:

    Hi, I am also a highschool student and I am doing a research paper on how Vietnamese Water puppets are made. Do you think you could give me more information? Also, I have to focus on one particular show and I am having difficulty finding the name of one to analyze. Any information would help. (: Thanks!

  3. Joe jolly on said:

    Hello, I have to make a water puppet for a Uni project could you please give me some advice on how to do this. Thank you 🙂

  4. Nanouche on said:

    Hi there,
    I am trying to make some water puppets, for a future performance. I was wondering if you have any advice, or know how I could find some technical drawings and photos of the mecanisms. Many thanks!

  5. andrea on said:

    hi i am a high school student and am looking for more information about how the water puppets are made for a specific showi “the legend of the fairy and the dragon” do you have any information about this?
    thank you 🙂

  6. hello, I’m writing a research paper on how the set design and puppet design for a certain legend (that I can’t find a script only the plot) I was wondering if you could give me more information about the puppets themselves? its hard to find anything about the specifics, and I’m hoping that you can!

  7. Sophie on said:

    Hello! I’m a student writing a research paper on how the water puppets are constructed. I was wondering if you could contact me to help me with my research? I’m finding it difficult to find information on how these puppets are constructed. My main character focus is on the characters: the dragon, the phoenix, golden tortoises and unicorns. Your help would be much appreciated! Thank you 🙂

    • Dear sophie i’m very sorry for the late reply, i was very busy on a project abroad…. anyway i want to publish a good list of reference for all people that ask me about useful readings and i’ll try to publish new videos about the topics suggested in all your comments!!!

  8. Brenda on said:

    Hi, I am a middle school history teacher and I would love to have my 6th graders create water puppets. I am having difficulty finding a tutorial on how to make them. Any suggestions as to where I can find that information?

  9. Melanie on said:

    I am currently writing a research paper on vietnamese water puppetry and how the puppets are manipulated and I was wondering if I could get more information on all the different types of puppets used and how they are controlled, made, and how special effects are made/done (ex: dragon breathing fire)

  10. Sim Hong Jin on said:

    Hello, my name is Hong Jin. I’m one of the korean high school student who go to school at Korean International School( also known as K.I.S) in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh city. I don’t know if this blog is still available?, but i got a really important favor to ask.
    If you could kindly send me a video clip of ‘Making of the Water Puppet’, so i can use this data as part of my presentation about ‘Water Puppetry’ in class.
    So would you mind please, please, please, please send me those clip if you can find one or record one for me.
    I will be really thankful if you do. I look afford to it.

    Sincerly your best pal, Hong Jin

  11. Hi i am a student of an art college, n also the director of colleges puppetry society,got a performance to do within 2 months, n was wishing for it to be water puppetry this time, ive done folk puppetry, black light and shadow puppetry, i believe ill get suggestions on how it is possible for me to do water technique within college premise, kindly guide on the whole structure planning and water puppet designing,further effects n stuff, ill be highly thankfull…really i want your help

  12. Naomi on said:

    Hello! I am a high school student and I am writing a research investigation on how to create and work the puppets in Vietnamese Water Puppetry, if you could email me if you have time about how to do these things (it can be bullet points even!) it would be greatly appreciated!

  13. hi, i am a high school student and i was wondering if you could possibly email me the answers to some questions about water puppets for a drama project i could really use your help!

  14. Sonali Sarin on said:

    Hi! I am also a high school theatre student researching Vietnamese Water Puppetry, and I am focusing on the Lake of the Restored Sword play and need to know more details on how the puppets are constucted and specific costumes the turtle or emperor would be wearing. If you have any more information on th topic, whether or not it relates to the play, i woul really appreciate to have any information about Vietnamese Water Puppetry. Thank you so so much!

  15. Lauren on said:

    Hi!! I am a high school student doing a research investigation on Vietnamese Water Puppetry and how the character of Chu Teu is created and made. I need a primary resource, and I would ask if you could please email me about how this character is prepared I would greatly appreciate it, and thank you for taking the time. It can be very short, even bullet points will work. I will make sure to reference you! Thank you very much

  16. Hi I am another high school student and i am doing a power point assessment on Vietnames Water Puppetry and i would love it if you could possibly take the time to answer a couple of these questions, if you could i would be very greatful
    Thank You!

    In what curcumstanses were they used?
    How are the puppets made and what are they made of?
    Where were they originated?
    How are the puppets operated and voiced?

  17. Hi there
    I was wondering if you could answer a couple of these question because i am doing a school project on veitnamese water puppets
    This would be very much appresiated- Thank You
    -How are the puppets made and what are the made of?
    -How are the puppets operated and voiced?
    Thank you very much.!!!!!!

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