62 years of dedication to shadow play
2018-07-16 17:42:00

Nanjing City’s shadow puppetry master Yao Qide, 75, began to learn the traditional ancient form of storytelling and entertainment at age 13. On July 15, Yao told reporters that he had dedicated his life to making the figures and performing for 62 years, adding it’s a pity that he perhaps can’t perform any longer.

Yao said that he took up the occupation thanks to a special chance. "My father used to sell tickets for shadow plays at a venue in the Confucius Temple. Because I didn't need to spend money, I often went to see them. Over time, I developed a strong interest."

"As an apprentice, I got up at 5:30 every day to practice," said Yao. The shadow play needs the performer to have a good voice, to speak and sing well, in order to vividly present the sounds and tones of different characters, as well as strong arms because the shadow play often takes more than an hour and demands that the performer’s hands be kept at the same horizontal level.

Shadow play figures used paper as materials 62 years ago. As an apprentice, Yao couldn’t afford to buy paper, so he went to the cigarette store next door to beg for packages.  “In the past, people bought few cigarettes a time, so it usually needed days to sell the cigarettes and then I could get one package box."

The shadow play has a history of more than 2,000 years. “The biggest materials are animal hides of cows, goats and donkeies, which are firm, low cost and not easy to break,” said Yao.

Unlike other forms of drama, the shadow play has been passed down to the present, usually by means of oral instruction from masters and rote memory by apprentices. There are no ready-made scripts, so the requirements on the performers are high.

There are dozens of procedures for making shadow play figures. Performers are also expected to be able to paint, sculpt and sing.

"I’m the only one who can make figures and play the shadow puppetry alone in Nanjing,” said the master.

Source: jschina.com.cn Editor: Dylan