Learning More about Viet Nam’s History & Culture

The art of Vietnamese water puppetry has a long history. According to old documentaries, the first water puppetry show was staged in the year 1121 to mark the birthday of King Ly Nhan Tong. The art form has become ingrained within Vietnamese tradition, closely bound to the rural culture of an agricultural, rice-planting civilization.

A water puppetry stage
After so many years, water puppetry has persevered, and now the Viet Nam Water Puppetry Theater and the Thang Long Water Puppetry Stage in Ha Noi regularly put on shows for local and international tourists.

In 2001, the Viet Nam Water Puppetry Theater performed abroad, winning high praise from international audiences. From mid-May to June 20, the Dao Thuc Water Puppetry Art Delegation (based in Dong Anh District, Ha Noi) attended the International Art Festival in Holland to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Muldial Production.

This was the first time Vietnamese water puppetry was performed in Holland. Spending nearly a month in the country, the delegation performed dozens of shows and attracted over 10,000 people. With the unexpected success of the Vietnamese shows, the Muldial Production organization board invited the delegation to perform again in Holland in November 2008.

Although water puppetry involves Vietnamese dialogues and traditional Vietnamese folk songs, the lively scenes nonetheless hold international tourists rapt as they watch Vietnamese folk stories unfold.

The HCMC Water Puppetry Delegation has a stage set up in the Sai Gon Zoo and Botanical Garden. To popularize the unique art form, the Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theater is preparing for its opening ceremony at the Labor Cultural Palace of HCMC, located at 55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1.

Saigon Guide recently had a talk with Mr Huynh Anh Tuan, Director of Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theater, as well as director of the Idecalf Play Stage which has been operating for more than ten years in HCMC.

Mr Huynh Anh Tuan said that after three months of preparation, the first large-scale water puppetry theater is entering a test stage, to be completed and officially operational on August 10. This will be the first Vietnamese Water Puppetry Theater which shows with live Vietnamese traditional music.

Audiences will be able to enjoy traditional Vietnamese operettas, Ca Tru (an original performance art whose character has been preserved for the past ten centuries), and others during the 50-minute play.

More than 16 short plays will be performed such as a dragon dance, lion dance, phoenix dance and chess dance.

“This is a good chance for international tourists to learn more about traditional Vietnamese history and the cultural lives of Vietnamese people. We are very happy to contribute to publicizing this unique, traditional Vietnamese art form to the world,” said Mr. Anh Tuan.

“This is good chance to international tourists to learn more about Vietnamese traditional history, and cultural life of Vietnamese people. We are very happy to contribute to publicize Vietnamese unique traditional art form to the world”. Mr Anh Tuan said.

The Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theater is equipped with 200 air-conditioned seats. International tourists now have another interesting place in which to enjoy traditional Vietnamese art at night while staying in HCMC. Tickets cost US $4 (VND 65,000). Tour groups will receive a 10% discount, and each tourist will receive a Vietnamese paper fan as a gift from the theater.

“To put into operation Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theater, we have invested over VND 800million and it is said that this is the first private water puppetry theater in Viet Nam”. Mr Tuan added.

As scheduled, the theater will have daily shows at 6:30pm and 8pm.

How to get there:
If you are staying at hotels located around Ben Thanh market, you can walk from Le Thanh Ton Street to Truong Dinh Street and turn right onto Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, District 1. It takes 10 minutes by foot.
If you are at the War Remnants Museum, you can go up Vo Van Tan Street, then turn left onto Le Quy Don Street to the corner of Le Quy Don and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, just a five-minutes’ walk.
You can tour around Sai Gon City then stop off at Reunification Palace to take photos and learn about Reunification Palace’s history. From there, you can go along Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, then turn left to Nguyen Thi Minh Khai.

By Andy Huynh

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