According to the Dung Dynasty scholar Quang Phuc Dong,** water puppetry began in the 11th century as something to do while the rice was growing. Almost certainly it is related to the monsoon. The stage typically is a pond built for theatrical purposes. Four or as many as eight puppeteers are concealed in a building at the head of the pond, manipulating the wooden/lacquered puppets through their motions by way of bamboo poles. The performance is accompanied by music (piped in, very loud), a chorus (similar to classical Greek theater) that comments on the action and sometimes warns the puppets of impending threats. Typically, half a dozen stories are told, chiefly of traditional village life. I was particularly impressed by the dragons and their gyrations, so to speak, resulting in a baby dragon, and the farmer violently chasing a fox away from his ducks. Afterwards, we were served the first of many very large Vietnamese meals, many, many courses. And then we were back in our luxury vans for the final leg of our trip to Ha Long.
|Yen Duc Water Puppet Theater|
|The chorus belting out their lip-sync introduction|
|Traditional farming sketch|
|Dragons doing what dragons must do|
|An egg rises to the surface|
|And, voila, a baby dragon|
|Farmer fends off fox attacking his ducks|
|Battered fox retreats|
|Life is good|
|The puppeteers; all in (Orvis?) waders probably manufactured not far from here|
|And we are on the road again|
|Now passing the huge Ha Long beach, freshly groomed and planted|
|Lest anyone think of Ha Long as a quaint fishing village and port...|
|Clearly, there are big plans for this place|
**apologies to the late great linguist James McCawley...