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Learn about Rural Vietnamese Life by Watching a Vietnamese Water Puppet Performance

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A Hanoi trip will somehow feel incomplete without attending a water puppet show. Loved by the people for centuries and a highly anticipated event for many throughout the years, you too can enjoy a performance. Don’t get too attached to it though as it has been known to move viewers and evoke its fair share of emotion and appreciation for the art.

The art of water puppet in the country traces its roots in the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam and to the country’s ancient Animist beliefs. In order to appease the rice paddy gods, the farmers created, yes you guessed it, puppet shows. The rice field’s flooded nature actually turned out as a good thing; it helped conceal the strings. It was also great at creating effects like splashes and waves which added excitement to the shows.

Just don’t expect to know the secrets of water puppeting anytime soon. The puppet masters have kept their technique and the art a secret throughout the years. Even today, their maneuvers are concealed with codes and secret language.

And yes, water puppeting has its dangers as well. Imagine being in the water during winter or during the rainy season when snakes, leeches and a whole bunch of creepy crawlies are out and about. Don’t forget water borne diseases too. Now, you’d think twice before hitting the waters, wouldn’t you? But it’s all good nowadays because the farmers have conjured up a fish sauce and green tea remedy which regulates body heat as well as waterproof boots to ward off unwelcomed animals out.

So, what are the water puppet performances like? Picture this. The stage is filled with water, usually around waist high. The puppet masters hide behind a split-bamboo screen that is usually decorated to resemble a temple façade. The puppeteers control the marionettes by using long bamboo rods and strings that are hidden by the water. Extravagant lights and colorful flags provide the festive mood and atmosphere that is common during a performance.

You’ll get more than just a puppet show at a performance. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra accompanies the show, providing background music to the program.  In addition a choir or individual sings out the story that is being acted out by the puppets on stage.  Themes are usually rural based, with a strong reference to Vietnamese folklore, which should give you a rough idea of how life in the countryside is like.

Combining entertainment with education, a water puppet show should not be missed! After exploring Hanoi’s many cultural and historic sites on A Day Charming & Historic Hanoi day trip, you can sit back and enjoy a water puppet performance later that evening.

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