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Exhibition featuring museum’s shadow puppet collection unveiled

Updated: May 22, 2024


A new exhibition showcasing shadow puppets from the collection of Prince Kung’s Palace Museum has been recently unveiled in the museum’s East Sector 2.



Accompanying the exhibition, performances from two of China's most renowned puppetry art schools - Zhushan Duhe shadow puppetry from Hubei province and Jizhou shadow puppetry from Tianjin - are respectively scheduled during this year’s International Museum Day and Cultural and Natural Heritage Day.


Shadow puppetry boasts a long history, with records dating back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the craftsmanship of shadow puppetry reached new heights. Talented artists gathered in Beijing, where this shadow art became wildly popular. It gradually became customary for princely residences to patronize their own troupes. Ancient Jizhou, located in a strategic area near Beijing, had strong ties with the Qing Dynasty imperial court, and local shadow puppetry was active in the capital.

The exhibition features significant artifacts such as Prince Kung's Palace's rent license for tenant Li Fu from Liuguanzhuang village, Xilonghuyu town, Jizhou during Guangxu's reign (1875-1908) as well as Li Fu's shadow puppet folios and related puppet rubbing sketches. These items are crucial for studying the development of shadow puppetry in Qing Dynasty princely residences.


Currently, Prince Kung's Palace Museum houses over 9,000 folk shadow puppets acquired in recent years. These pieces span from the late Qing Dynasty to the Republican Era (1911-1949) and cover regions such as Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Yunnan, and Inner Mongolia. The collection includes four main categories: heads, bodies, animals, and scenery, showcasing a diverse range of styles and distinct regional features. 

This exhibition selects over 200 puppets from various regions, alongside related items including shadow puppet sketches, pouches, musical instruments, and rare paper puppets. Complemented by on-site demonstrations of shadow puppet carving crafts and shadow puppetry performances, visitors can get a glimpse into the rich history and vibrant contemporary inheritance of folk shadow puppetry.


The exhibition will run until Aug 15.

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