My Ah-Gong was an advocate for higher learning but he had a kryptonite for a folk art involving mystic hand puppets performances. ‘Once in a while I would skip classes (in medical school) to partake in po-te-hi. The shows made me feel young again.’ It’s not every day you get to see a 70+ year old man so vivacious.
The Taiwanese hand puppet show or “Budaisi” (布袋戲 Mandarin: Bu4 Dai4 Xi3 Taiwanese: po-te-hi) is a time honored live theatrical folk art that integrates literature, society, music, ventriloquism, poetry, art, sculpture, embroidery, illusion as well as masterful stunts. The art is one of Taiwan’s most cherished, respected, and traditional heritage forms of Taiwanese local dramatic entertainment and visual performance. The hand puppet art originated in Fujian province of southern China over 200 years ago and was brought to Taiwan by immigrants.
One of Taiwan’s most respected hand puppet troupes arguably is Yuanlin township’s New Paradise Troupe (員林新樂園). The troupe headed by the Wu family of Yuanlin and performed by hand puppet master Wu Ching-fah (吳清發) is a traditional form of Taiwanese hand puppetry. Different from the modern hand puppet theaters that utilize voice over narrations and post production music, the performance of New Paradise Hand Puppet Theater is accompanied by live backstage “beiguan” orchestra in the style of traditional beiguan music. Master Wu has disciplined in the folk art by his father since age thirteen in 1949. The art relies on coordination and teamwork of the hand puppeteer and the orchestra.
Come experience the New Paradise Glove Puppet Theater, preservers of the traditional style of traditional hand puppetry.
Having the Yuanlin New Paradise Hand Puppet Troupe at the 15th Annual Taiwanese American Heritage Festival Los Angeles would not have been possible without the generous financial support from Ted Anderson and Uncle Tim Wang of the Friends of Taiwan and “Teacher” Rex Yu’s vision and planning. Thank you!