監製：Lee Tze Leung Ricky
Across different times in the history of Hong Kong, Chinese puppetry played an indispensable role in the community’s entertainment and sacrificial rituals.
In as early as around the 1870’s, Cantonese rod puppetry already enjoyed massive popularity in Dongguan, which is in close proximity to Hong Kong. As such, there were always puppetry troupes coming to Hong Kong to perform.
In a performance of Cantonese rod puppetry, artists support and move puppets that consist only the upper body, and sing meanwhile. This is rarely seen in Hong Kong nowadays. As the leader of Wah Shan Traditional Puppet Chinese Opera, one of the most active troupes currently, CHAN Kam-to has performed shengongxi in various places of the city in the past thirty years or so. However, as audiences have mostly lost interest in puppetry in recent years, he now performs predominantly in Jiao festivals in New Territories, and scarcely in other occasions.
In addition to Jiao festivals, temple fairs, consecration ceremonies of temples and festive occasions, the seventh month in the lunar calendar, which the Yu Lan Ghost Festival falls in, used to be also the peak season for puppetry troupes. For instance, Sham Tseng Village invited troupes to perform Chiu Chow iron stick puppetry in the 1960’s. Back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, iron stick puppetry was prevalent in Hong Kong. As society became more affluent, the general public has grown to favour shengongxi featuring real artists onstage, resulting in the dissolution of numerous iron stick puppetry troupes.
Master WONG Fai from Fujian is an experienced artist in Chinese puppetry. He recalls how overwhelmingly popular traditional Chinese performing arts were in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, when a lot of tourists from the West would like to experience Chinese culture in Hong Kong. In those years, he performed the classic play Tai Ming City every evening in the ballroom of The Mira Hong Kong as part of the Winning Glove Puppets Art Troupe, receiving applause from guests coming from all over the world.
Master LI Yixin, an expert in Fujian hand puppetry, has been performing in shows organised by the Hong Kong government for three decades. With a decreasing number of shows, not only is his livelihood affected, but also the puppetry artists he spent years of hard work nurturing are quitting one after another. Sadly, this is a situation that we can do very little about.
Producer: Michelle TANG