“Water puppet” is a folk art form that characterizes the Vietnamese’s ancient rice civilization. Puppetry activities are performed in many countries around the world, but this type of water puppet show is only performed in Vietnam.
The art of water puppet is a cultural characteristic of indigenous Vietnamese, developed in most of the villages around Thang Long citadel and most of the wards in the northern delta provinces.
What is water puppet?
The water puppet show (puppet show, water play) is considered to be the intangible cultural identity of Vietnamese, a traditional folk art form in the region of The Red River Delta that usually takes place on holidays, festivities, happy days, Tet holidays.
Water puppet has different traits than ordinary puppetry that the puppeteer use water surface (also known as a puppet house or a water house) as a stage which is erected in the middle of ponds or lakes with balanced architecture representing the communal roof in the countryside of Vietnam. There are backdrops at the back, and decorated flag, fan, elephant, parasol, port …
The puppets are made of wood, performed by the control of the people behind the font through the system of poles, wire … and is accompanied by drum and flute.
Each puppet is a folk sculpture. Wooden puppets are chiseled with their own stylized lines, then trimmed, polished and decorated with different colors to enhance the traits of each character. The most prominent character is Teu – his body is round, with optimistic smile.
Teu appears facetiously to lead the story. The puppet body is the part that floats on the surface of water to represents the character, while the base is the submerged part of the water that keeps the puppet above and is also the place to control the puppet movement.
How to control the puppet is key to the art of water puppetry. The controller is hidden in the water, taking advantage of the water power, creating the remote control, giving audiences many strange and unexpected moments.
The water puppeteer stands in the cubicle to manipulate puppets. They manipulate each pole or control puppets by wire system arranged outside or under water. The success of water puppetry mainly counts on the movement of the body and the way it plays the show.
Water puppetry will not attractive without music. Music controls speed, keeping pace, leading the movement, creating the atmosphere full of traditional rhythms. People usually use traditional folk or folk songs of the Northern Delta as a background music for water puppet play.
When did water puppetry come from?
According to legends, historical myth, water puppetry appeared in the time of building the Co Loa citadel under the reign of King An Duong Vuong, dating back to 255 BC. While in history books, epitaph, water puppet show is started in 1121 (under the reign of Ly’s Dynasty).
In the Vietnamese water puppet treasures, there are 30 traditional shows and hundreds of modern puppet shows reflecting the folklore and everyday life of the Vietnamese. The art of water puppetry is an indigenous cultural characteristic of Vietnamese, developed in most of the villages around Thang Long citadel and most of the wards in the northern delta provinces.
Currently, in Vietnam there are about 7 professional puppet art troupes in central Hanoi, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City, Dak Lak, Quang Tri and Hoi An. In addition, there are also dozens of water puppet shows in many localities of the Red River Delta.
Here are the wonderful places to watching best water puppet show in Vietnam:
1. Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, Ha Noi
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre was established in 1969 and is one of the most famous water puppet theatres in Vietnam. This unique puppet art originates around the 11th century on the Red River.
Today, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is one of the traditional puppet theatres that is still opened until now, the wooden puppets of the theatre have become worldwide known. Since 1990, the theatre regularly organizes international tours and has participated in many art festivals around the world.
Puppets were performed on a lake that made the stage and the puppeteer dips themselves in water to manipulate puppets from behind the screen. The puppets are controlled by the underwater rods or very special wire systems.
The seats in the middle of the stage, in the front row seats are the best places to see all the performances and look at the puppets, but remember you may easily get wet there. Drop yourself in the ancient tales, the ancient legends and the shouting of crowds as the dragon or characters suddenly appear from under the water.
The show has a live band performing and be prepared to have a good laugh at Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, which is well-known for its comedic repertoire. And after the show, linger in the romantic Hoan Kiem lake with a glass of coffee at the theater’s cafe.
Each show takes less than an hour long. It is advisable to book in advance as the theater is always crowded.
Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is located in the Old Quarter area. The theater is open all day of the week and up to a maximum of 6 performances per day. Some shows also feature English subtitles on screen for international audiences. What is more, Thang Long Puppet Theatre serves performances on request as well.
Address: 57b Dinh Tien Hoang – Hoan Kiem District – Hanoi – Vietnam.
Schedule of performances:
Summer: 16h10 | 17h20 | 18h30 | 20h
Winter: 15h | 16h10 | 17h20 | 18h30 | 20h | 21h15
Sunday morning: 9h30
Each Thang Long water puppetry lasts about 45 minutes
Adult: 100,000 VND / person
Children under 1.2m: 60,000 VND / person
If using the camera, the surcharge is 20,000 VND / camera and is 60,000 VND / camcorder
Booking details: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Vietnam Puppet Theatre, Ha Noi
Located in the area of Thanh Xuan District, the puppet theater on 361 Truong Chinh Street has long become familiar to Hanoiese, even is a hot spot that can not be missed for visitors whenever visiting or working in Vietnam.
With an area of over 7,000 square meters, the Theater has built a very distinct campus with its own unique art form. The general Theater is designed in Asian architecture that creates a space filled with pure Vietnamese culture. The arrangement, layout of reliefs displaying the images of living, working, of the ancient Vietnamese (Quoted in Henri Ojer’s “Encyclopaedia”) are very fun and refresh.
The theater has three stages: Outdoor Water Temple(nearly 400 seats) is a traditional water puppet stage. Water Temple is built on the lake in the middle of a vast space with wind, trees and the sound of nature. Adjacent to Water Temple is a green lake that is highlighted by the colorful flowers and leaves. The area is peaceful and stunning under the bending roof in shimmering light.
The new theater is built with modern equipment from sound, light to the surrounding area. In the theater, there are two stages: one performs puppet (2nd floor with 300 seats), stage 1 (nearly 300 seats) ) that perform all other forms of art (traditional water puppets, water puppets combined with contemporary art, variety …).
Next to this place is a museum showing the origins of Vietnamese Puppetry (especially Water Puppetry) and some puppet objects in different regions of Vietnam. There are also souvenir shops, entertainment area …that are very convenient for you.
The number of artists and civil servants is increasing, both in terms of quantity and quality, and professionally trained in Vietnam and abroad to meet all the requirements of art such as research, teach, creative …
Some typical performances such as: catching duck, pedophiles, fishing, quadruple dancing, flaming fire dragon, fairy dance, buffalo-fighting , yacht, phoenix …
Address: 361 Truong Chinh Street, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Please contact to book and buy tickets:
Telephone of Ticketing Office: (84-4) 3853 4545
Performing time: 17h00 – 18h30 daily
Ticket price: Type 1: 50,000VND / ticket; Type 2: 40,000 VND / ticket
3. Royal International Park (Hoang Gia International Park), Quang Ninh:
There are two spots In Quang Ninh that visitors can come to see water puppet show. One is in Royal International Park (Bai Chay Tourist Area, Ha Long City) and the other is Yen Duc Village (Dong Trieu District).
The Royal Water Park’s water puppet show has the advantage of being located right in the Bai Chay tourist center, can attract many tourists. Facilities and tourist services here are invested quite synchronously, from performance stage to seat system, sound,… Besides, the orchestra performers are also extremely professional.
The Royal Dance Theatre has a capacity of up to nearly 300 visitors. Currently, the water puppet show serves 3 shows a day, at 17:30, 18:30 and 19:30 every day, each show lasts around 30-35 minutes.
4. Yen Duc tourist village, Quang Ninh
The water puppet show in the tourist village of Yen Duc has its own special characteristics. Once here, you get a chance to enjoy this art form in a spacious and airy space of a tranquil village. The stage is located outdoors, surrounded by the evergreen of orchard, rice fields, …
Especially, the “artists” perform water puppet show here are locals in the village. Nowadays, the water puppet shows are mainly performed for tour groups, so there is no fixed time for performances, all you need to do is contact the management center of the tourist village of Yen Duc to have your own performances.
5. Hoi An Theatre
The art of Hoi An water puppet show is elaborated through the performance of professional and experienced artists with a careful investment in the content of water, puppets, Light …, will help you really get into the artistic space of Vietnam and Quang culture.
Address: Hoi An Theater, 548 Hai Ba Trung – Hoi An.
Adult: 80,000 VND.
Children: 40,000 VND.
Performance time: 18h30 on Tuesdays, Friday & Saturday every week.
6. Theatre, Hue City
The theatre has a fixed performing stage, with its natural, airy space, a comfortable 162-seat stage is an ideal for you to enjoy the art. The location is in the middle of the city, convenient for you to get around. In addition, safe parking space is available.
In addition to regular performances, the theater features water puppetry shows at other times of the day from 7:00 to 22:00. Minimum number of guests: From 01 to 20 guests. For the schools with more than 100 visitors, there will have shuttle to take children for free.
Performance time: The theater is open all afternoon and evening (including Sundays and public holidays). There are 03 performances (water puppet show):
Summer schedule: Show 1: From 15h30 to 16h30 / Show 2: From 19h30 to 20h30 / Show 3: From 21h00 to 22h20
Winter schedule: Show 1: From 15h30 to 16h30 / Show 2: From 18h30 to 19h30 / Show 3: From 20h30 to 21h30
Duration: 50 minutes
Address: 08 Le Loi, Hue city, Vietnam
Tel: 054.3834779 / 0913.475.562
Fax: (84-54) 827124
Foreigner: Adult: 50,000 VND / Child: 30,000 VND
Vietnamese: Adults: 40,000 VND / Children: 20,000 VND
7. Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, HCM City
In Ho Chi Minh City, there are several water puppetry venues such as the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre (District 1), Vietnam History Museum (District 1), Thao Dien Village (District 2) Homemade tofu rice vermicelli restaurant.
Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre serves about 500 to 600 visitors from all over the world on every single night. Each show is within 50 minutes. With the stage is the water surface, the main actors are puppets, the artisans stand behind the screen to control each puppet.
Address: 55 B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Located in Ho Chi Minh City Labor Culture Palace, next to Tao Dan Park)
Phone: 08 3930 2196 / (08) 38.272 653
Performance time: From 6.30pm – 8.30pm. three times 17h00 – 18h30 – 19h45. If you go in a big group, you can book in advance to set daytime performance. Each show lasts about 50 minutes.
Ticket: 160,000 VND per show.
8. Vietnam History Museum, Ho Chi Minh City
The Southern Art Theatre is located inside the museum. After sightseeing, you can buy tickets for the water puppet show, which costs about 50,000 VND / 15 minutes / adult.
Address: 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (next to the Zoo).
Phone number: 08 38 234 528/08 38 594 520/0938500545
Opening hour: From Monday to Saturday: 8am – 11am/ Afternoon: 1h30-4h
Sundays and public holidays: 8.30am – 4pm. Only served when the viewers > 5 people (or you can join with other tourists).
In addition to these amazing theaters, some Vietnamese-style restaurants have invested more water puppetry stage to attract families, foreign guests on special occasions or weekend such as: Thao Dien tourist village, homemade tofu rice vermicelli restaurant.
9. Thao Dien tourist village, Ho Chi Minh City
On Saturday from 19h30 to 20h at Ngon restaurant (serving Vietnamese food) on the grounds of Thao Dien Village also held water puppet show.
Address: 195 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Phone: +84 8 37446457
Fax: +84 8 37446458
10. Homemade tofu rice vermicelli restaurant, Ho Chi Minh City
Homemade tofu rice vermicelli is not just a restaurant of tofu rice vermicelli (noodles) with shrimp paste, homemade beers also hold Saturday night concerts and give children balloons on Sunday nights. In particular, the restaurant also has a separate floor for a free water puppet show that is served twice a day to meet the demand of non-profit services.
There are modern shows like racing and combined with the traffic safety that are fun and easy to understand.
Beside the water puppetry stage, there is also a corner of the restaurant that serves as a place to decorate and introduce works by famous painters such as Bui Xuan Phai, Tran Van Can and To Ngoc Van. While waiting for the meal, you can read a lot of good books about Hanoi from the famous writer like such as: To Hoai, Vu Bang …
Address: 1 Nguyen Van Trang Street, District 1, HCM City.
Phone: 0938 088 284
Opening hour: 10:00 – 22:30
See more about water puppet show in Vietnam: