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Stories presented are usually mythical and morality tales. There is an educational moral to the plays, which usually portray a battle. Malay shadow plays are sometimes considered one of the earliest examples of animation. The wayang kulit in the northern states of Malaysia such as Kelantan is influenced by and similar to Thai shadow puppets, while the wayang kulit in the southern Malay peninsula, especially in Johor , is borrowed from Javanese Indonesian wayang kulit with slightly differences in the story and performance.

The puppets are made primarily of leather and manipulated with sticks or buffalo horn handles.

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Shadows are cast using an oil lamp or, in modern times, a halogen light, onto a cotton cloth background. They are often associated with gamelan music. There are several myths and legends about the origins of shadow puppetry in China.


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The emperor could see a shadow that looked like her move behind the curtains that the magician had placed around some lit torches. It is often told that the magician used a shadow puppet, but the original text in Book of Han gives no reason to believe in a relation to shadow puppetry. A book mentions that the puppets were initially cut out of paper, but later made of colored leather or parchment. The stories were mostly based on history and half fact half fiction, but comedies were also performed.

Shadow theatre became quite popular as early as the Song dynasty , when holidays were marked by the presentation of many shadow plays.

During the Ming dynasty there were 40 to 50 shadow show troupes in the city of Beijing alone. The storytellers generally used the art to tell events between various war kingdoms or stories of Buddhist sources. In Gansu province, it is accompanied by Daoqing music, while in Jilin , accompanying Huanglong music forms some of the basis of modern opera. Chinese shadow puppetry is shown in the Zhang Yimou film To Live. The origins of Taiwan 's shadow puppetry can be traced to the Chaochow school of shadow puppet theatre.

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Commonly known as leather monkey shows or leather shows, the shadow plays were popular in Tainan , Kaohsiung , and Pingtung as early as the Qing dynasty A. Older puppeteers estimate that there were at least a hundred shadow puppet troupes in southern Taiwan in the closing years of the Qing. Traditionally, the eight to twelve-inch puppet figures, and the stage scenery and props such as furniture, natural scenery, pagodas, halls, and plants, are all cut from leather.

As shadow puppetry is based on light penetrating through a translucent sheet of cloth, the "shadows" are actually silhouettes seen by the audience in profile or face on. Taiwan's shadow plays are accompanied by Chaochow melodies which are often called "priest's melodies" owing to their similarity with the music used by Taoist priests at funerals. A large repertoire of some scripts of the southern school of drama used in shadow puppetry and dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries has been preserved in Taiwan and is considered to be a priceless cultural asset.

Kumi Yamashita Plays with Shadows to Create Art

A number of terms are used to describe the different forms. A more bawdy comedy tradition of shadow play was widespread throughout the Ottoman Empire , possibly since the late 14th century. Together with other characters they represented all the major social groups in Ottoman culture.


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The show could be introduced by a singer, accompanied by a tambourine player. The hide is made transparent and colored, resulting in colorful projections. Puppets are typically 35—40 centimeters in height. This tradition thrived throughout Greece after independence as popular entertainment for a largely adult audience, particularly before competition arose from television.

The stories did, however, retain the period setting in the late years of the Ottoman Empire. Karagiozis theatre has undergone some revival in recent years, with the intended audience tending to be largely juvenile. Shadow plays spread throughout Europe via Italy at the end of the 17th century. It is known that several Italian showmen performed in Germany, France and England during this period. In a handwritten document he supposed it should include shadow theatre.

French missionaries brought the shadow show from China to France in and put on performances in Paris and Marseilles , causing quite a stir. He would go on to perform at the Palace of Versailles in front of royalty. The performances would adapt to the political changes and survived the French Revolution. The art was a popular entertainment in Paris during the 19th century, especially in the famous Paris nightclub district of Montmartre. Figures were originally cardboard cut-outs, but were replaced with zinc figures since Other cabarets would produce their own versions; the ombres evolved into numerous theatrical productions and had a major influence on phantasmagoria.

In Italy, the Museum of Precinema collezione Minici Zotti in Padua houses a collection of 70 French shadow puppets, similar to those used in the cabaret Le Chat Noir, together with an original theatre and painted backdrops, as well as two magic lanterns for projecting scenes. Richard Bradshaw is an Australian shadow puppeteer known for his characters like "Super Kangaroo". The Shadow Theatre of Anaphoria [55] relocated to Australia from California combines a mixture of reconstructed and original puppets with multiple sources of lights.

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The company is under the direction of Kraig Grady. Australian company Shadowplay Studios' debut game Projection: First Light was inspired by shadow puppetry and its art style replicates the traditional shadow play canvas using black props and sepia backgrounds. They visited Richard Bradshaw to gain more insight into shadow puppetry, to make their game more authentic and to get references for the game's shadow puppet characters. In the s the German animator Lotte Reiniger pioneered silhouette animation as a format, whereby shadow-play-like puppets are filmed frame-by-frame.

This technique has been kept alive by subsequent animators and is still practised today, though cel animation and computer animation has also been used to imitate the look of shadow play and silhouette animation. Traditional Chinese shadow puppetry was brought to audiences in the United States in the s and s through the efforts of Pauline Benton.

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Contemporary artists such as Annie Katsura Rollins have perpetuated the medium, sometimes combining the form with Western theatre. Shadow theatre is still popular in many parts of Asia. Prahlad Acharya is one famous Indian magician who incorporates it into his performances.

In the s, performer Tom McDonagh introduced 3-D shadow puppets and the use of laser-cut objects. It also appears occasionally in western popular culture , for example in:.

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Wayang kulit as seen by the audience. Wayang kulit puppet in Bali , Indonesia. King Yudistira a. Darmakusuma puppet from Java for a shadow play. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about shadows cast by puppet figures. For shadows cast by hands, see Shadowgraphy performing art. A shadow play in Kerala.

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Play media. Ramayana legend, with audience response 45 seconds. Main articles: Wayang and Wayang kulit. Main article: Khmer shadow theatre. Main articles: Nang Talung and Nang yai. Short video showing shadow play in Kota Bahru, Malaysia, including behind the scenes. Asian Folklore Studies. Nanzan University. Acting: An International Encyclopedia. The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Theatre. Cambridge University Press. A Dictionary of Film Studies.