Master brings new life to Liancheng string puppet shows
Li Mingqing performs a string puppet show. [Photo/fjsen.com.cn]
As Li Mingqing manipulated the strings of a puppet to write Chinese characters and to play jinghu, a two-stringed bowed instrument with a high register, a social practice team made up of postgraduate students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music was watching the show closely.
Li is a string puppet master in Liancheng county, Fujian province, where the craft has a history of over 100 years.
Drawing on the essence of local folk drama arts, Liancheng string puppet show was classified as a Fujian intangible cultural heritage item in 2009.
Li Mingqing prepares his string puppets. [Photo/fjsen.com.cn]
String puppet shows often express the feelings of its characters through delicate movements, such as hugging, fetching water, and dressing, but these small movements require proficient skills.
In order to present a natural performance, the puppets' movements must be smooth and consistent, which is the most difficult thing to master that requires years of practice.
Li Mingqing manipulates a puppet with strings. [Photo/fjsen.com.cn]
In the past, puppet shows were so popular that tickets were sold out as soon as they were released. However, since the 1980s, the emergence of new forms of entertainment has greatly impacted the development of puppet shows, which now face severe challenges.
As an inheritor of Liancheng string puppet shows, Li has performed puppet shows for over 40 years. Seeing the decline of string puppet shows' popularity, he is eager to promote the art form.
By chance, Li saw someone performing calligraphy with both hands on TV when a bold idea occurred to him, "Can a puppet calligraphy show be a way to bolster popularity?"
Li immediately put his thoughts into action.