Sunday, February 01, 2015

Traditional Chinese Puppet Troupe in Singapore

While out on an breakfast excursion in Jalan Besar (Bersih Market) in January 2015, i observed on the far end of the field where a temple has set up tentage for its festivities, was a smaller shelter where i could see performances going on, but no one was really watching it. On closer inspection it was a string puppet performance (marionettes) taking place in the Hokkien dialect by the Feng Huang (Phoenix) Puppet Troupe 凤凰木偶班.

I am not an expert in this area, but then no one starts off calling themselves an expert and the purpose for me writing this article is to share what little i know and hopefully get insights from readers who stumble unto my blog that may have more knowledge to come and share their insights and if you have old photos of puppet performances or old photos of puppet troupes in Singapore, do email me, so i can add in as well into this article. Whenever i discover more puppet troupe's in Singapore, i will also add on this article.

String Puppet Performance by Feng Huang (Phoneix) Puppet Troupe
String Puppet Performance by Feng Huang (Phoneix) Puppet Troupe

String Puppet Performance by Feng Huang (Phoneix) Puppet Troupe
String Puppet Performance and the ladies managing the puppets 

String Puppet Performance by Feng Huang (Phoneix) Puppet Troupe
The musicians
Musicians of the String Puppet Performance by Feng Huang (Phoneix) Puppet Troupe
The musicians

The Puppet Master of the String Puppet Performance by Feng Huang (Phoneix) Puppet Troupe
Puppet Master in action 
Traditional Chinese Puppets 
Puppet Shows are a cheaper alternative to a full Chinese Opera performance (wayang) and often requires only 3-4 musicians (often men) and 3 (often women) to manipulate the puppet and sing. This troupe are like the opera performances engaged during temple festivities such as the Hungry Ghost Festival and during the birthday of the deities.

Different puppets have different dressing, face painting and costumes. Similar to Chinese Opera, the more elaborate the clothing, this tends to signify a person of high status and /or wealth. The darker the make-up and clothing, its tend to signify that the character has an evil intent.

There are different types of puppets as well. The ones by Feng Huang (Phoenix) Puppet Troupe are stringed puppets. There are also other forms such as:
  • Glove based Puppets
  • Rod Puppets
  • Finger Puppets 
  • Shadow Play 

String Puppets 

Glove puppets and rod puppet (in black and white)
(source: National Archives)

Other Puppet Troupe's in Singapore
Below are some of the pictures i have taken of various puppet troupe in Singapore. Will update /add on when i discover more, so this is not a comprehensive count of how many are out there.

四季春 (Spring of Four Seasons) 
I saw this troupe in June 2015 in Sin Ming. There a troupe performing using glove puppets in Hokkien.

四季春 (Spring of Four Seasons) - Glove Puppet

四季春 (Spring of Four Seasons) - Glove Puppet

四季春 (Spring of Four Seasons) - Glove Puppet


能文㚞掌中班
I saw this Puppet Troupe in January 2015 in Toa Payoh. Unfortunately, when i arrived the performance was already over.
能文㚞掌中班
能文㚞掌中班
Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe (新和平加礼戏班)
I saw this troupe performed on the grounds of the Asian Civilization Museum back in 2012. This is an Heng Hua troupe whose uses string puppets,
Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe (新和平加礼戏班)
Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe (新和平加礼戏班)

Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe (新和平加礼戏班)
A Puppet show with a beautiful backdrop 

Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe (新和平加礼戏班)
The Puppet master 

Puppet Troupes (from the newspaper archives)
Other troupes i found while researching are included here. I am not sure whether they exist today, but again, add it in here for me to learn more.

Teong Meng Hong Puppet Show ( a glove puppet troupe) -1988
source: NewspaperSG

Chye Sing Hong (Hakka Marrionette Troupe)- 1988
source: NewspaperSG

Sam Soon Long Puppet Troupe (Hainanese) -1988
source: NewspaperSG
References 
Hungry ghost keep puppetry alive. (1988, August 31). The Straits Times
A calendar of street wayang in Singapore (1987/88) : with special reference to major Chinese festivals. [website].BookSG
Past and Present: String Puppets in Singapore. [website] Puppet Theatre

Last updated: June 7, 2015

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