In China puppet theatre has always vividly reflected societal and cultural values with beautifully carved puppets, music, drama, and eloquent language, costumes and adornment while assuming a major role in religious rituals and honoring major life and historical events. Puppetry using rod, string, glove and shadow puppets, reached its height in the Qing dynasty when it became closely associated with local opera forms. Story plots include history, religious and supernatural events, deities and legends, romances and even courtroom cases accompanied by flutes and drums Although Chinese puppetry diminished after the Cultural Revolution, traditional puppet theatre is still performed by private and state sponsored professional and amateur companies in rural and urban areas with Chinese and Taiwanese government support in recent decades to preserve puppets and theatrical performances.

Of the many types of puppets, our collection soon will include marionettes, stick, rod and shadow puppets, primarily from Indonesia and China.

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  • Antique Female Puppet Head on Acrylic Stand, China


    Antique Chinese puppets were often made in several parts, with the head being removable. This antique female carved wood head of a beauty has delicately painted features with a porcelain white face with animal hair braided down the back. Since there is an area without hair towards the back, it may have had a headdress.  A hole on top probably accommodated strings. Mounted on a frosted acrylic base, it is in good condition with surface losses and a ding on the left side of the face consistent with age and use.

  • Antique Puppet Head of Queen Mother of the West, China


    Chinese puppet theatre has thrived in China for centuries to educate and entertain with puppets that often had detachable heads. A most popular figure was the Queen Mother of the West the highest ranking female Taoist deity who women venerated as a powerful, independent deity embodying yin (female energy) and prayed to for health and long life. In the Ming and Qing dynasties she became a cult figure with local temples dedicated to her and artisans modifying her features and iconography making her more folk than regal. Her elaborate complex headdress includes a large outstretched tortoise atop a phoenix surrounded by an arch bordered with a scale like finish. It is mounted on a contemporary frosted acrylic base.

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