Puppets at Pacific Asia Museum

Wu Song fights the TigerOur Lunar New Year Festival was a smashing success, but the fun isn’t over yet! This year, we’re proud to be hosting a delegation of artists and performers from Jiangsu Province, China, who will be demonstrating their talents through Friday. Most engaging are the puppeteers, who have delighted several school groups this week and will have public performances this afternoon and tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. These puppeteers are from the Yangzhou Puppet Art Institute of China, a school with a thousand-year history. Chinese puppet shows have an even longer history that extends back over 3,000 years ago. During the Han Dynasty, a dancer puppet even helped resolve conflicts, according to the essays of Yue Fu.

The Yangzhou performers bring several traditional Chinese stories to life. One story is that of Wu Song and the Tiger (image above). Wu Song is a fictional character who appears in Shuihu Zhuan (Water Margin), one of the four great Chinese classic novels. In this vignette, Wu Song leaves a tavern noted for its strong wine and finds himself at a ridge where a legendary man-eating tiger lives. Awoken from his wine-induced sleep, Wu Song breaks his staff trying to fend off the tiger. The weaponless Wu Song then pins the tiger and beats him to death, and finds himself a hero to the communities nearby.

Sugar sculptureThe puppet performances are just one reason to visit these artists during their stay here. In the courtyard, the Jiangsu artists continue to demonstrate several traditional crafts, including sugar sculpture, paper cutting and more. The sugar sculpture might be the most unique demonstration, as the artist carefully drizzles and spreads melted sugar onto marble in beautiful, delicate designs. This traditional art form has been around for over 2,000 years, primarily in wheat-producing areas. The maltose from the wheat is commonly used in those areas, and the sugars are caramelized to a golden color before being spread onto the marble slab. This particular artist, Bolin Zhang (at right, click to enlarge) attaches a thin stick to his creations for display (and eating!).

Don’t miss the opportunity to see these artisans at work this week. They’ll be in the courtyard through Friday, and giving puppet show performances today and tomorrow at 3:30. Hope to see you here! ~CM

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