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Shadow play: 'Father of movies' re-shines in modern life | Updated: 2017-01-25 13:59
Shadow play: 'Father of movies' re-shines in modern life

A shadow play show is staged in Huazhou district in Northwest China's Weinan city, Shaanxi province. [Photo provided to]


Shadow play, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment in China and an indispensable part of Chinese culture. It's hailed as the "father of movies".

Huazhou district in Northwest China's Weinan city, Shaanxi province, is home to the traditional play that dates back over 2,000 years ago.

Shadow play uses opaque, often exquisitely designed paper figures behind an illuminated backdrop to create the illusion of moving images to tell heroic sagas. A good performance requires sophisticated control of shadow and light, dramatic storytelling skills, as well as creative use of various musical instruments.

The ancient art form is one of the earliest Chinese operas, born in the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC – AD 220) and thrived in the Tang and Song dynasties (AD 618-1279). It was originally a palace play enjoyed by the imperial families and later popularized among everyone after the Tang Dynasty.

In modern days, shadow play has become a "national treasure" and still retains its original style in Huazhou, where a Shadow Puppetry Cultural Park resides. A group of seven silver-haired puppetry inheritors live and play there, all aged nearly 70.

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