Bao Ha Village

Bao Ha Village

Hai Phong, Vietnam
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Bao Ha village is located in Hai Phong City, about 120km from downtown Hanoi. The village has a long history of creating and performing puppets. Here, two types of puppetry co-exist: water and non-water puppetry. Together with the popular water puppetry, non-water puppetry has gained increasing recognition from both domestic and international audiences. Visitors to […]

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Bao Ha village is located in Hai Phong City, about 120km from downtown Hanoi. The village has a long history of creating and performing puppets. Here, two types of puppetry co-exist: water and non-water puppetry. Together with the popular water puppetry, non-water puppetry has gained increasing recognition from both domestic and international audiences.

Visitors to Bao Ha village are amazed by the ancient statues and the local puppet shows and they love to visit workshops that produce puppets or a wide range of statues. It is one of three traditional non-water puppetry cradles in northern Vietnam. Local craftsmen and artisans have preserved and promoted their unique art since the 16th Century. Local elders say that Nguyen Cong Hue was the first artisan who made puppet figures just to make use of his available wood blocks. The traditional wood-craving craft in this region provided favorable conditions for the art form to bloom.

Bao Ha puppets are made from the hard and durable wood of the jackfruit tree. Basically, each puppet has three parts: the body, the clothes and a single control stick hidden under the clothes. All puppets are inspired by real life humans and their activities, from faces to movements and costumes. Carving the face is the most difficult job as we need to create distinctive facial expressions for each role.

Unlike other villages, Bao Ha craftsmen use only one built-in stick to control the puppets. Other movements are handed by the performers’ arms, which are carefully hidden under the puppet costumes. This means the audience will not detect any stick or rod, that’s why the puppets more life-like.

One of the most significant ways to distinguish water puppetry and non-water puppetry is the performance stage. For the water form, the stage is the village’s water palace, which is located in the middle of a pond. This makes the spectators can only watch the puppet show from afar. Meanwhile non-water puppetry is performed on a simple stage, which makes the performers and the audience closer and thus, creating emotional exchanges and communications between them.

Created in a land with a rich culture, Bao Ha puppets show many of Vietnam’s traditional features. They are accompanied with famous folk operas. The stage recreates rural scenes in Vietnam. The puppets enter the stage via the “Gate of Birth” and exit via the “Gate of Death”, the two concepts that were inspired by traditional beliefs.

All the folk tunes used in the non-water puppetry depicts the lives of Vietnamese people in the old days. Using only traditional operas is also an important aspect of Bao Ha non-water puppetry that makes it special and unique.

Like water puppetry, the non-water puppet performing art also manifests many cultural values of the people in the Red River Delta. However, the lack of promotion and attention from both the government and the public audiences are threatening the survival of the art.

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