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Get to Know Traditional Vietnamese Water Puppetry

  • 22
  • 07
  • 2016

All over the world, puppets are a common form of entertainment for both children and adults, but each culture always gives a unique twist to their puppetry.


The origin of Vietnamese water puppets dates back to the 11th century in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam. Modern performances vary from the traditional. Performances in ancient times took place in communal ponds. Today, however, a big stage with a waist-deep pool of water is the typical scenario.

As easily worn-down puppets wouldn’t last long, lacquered wood is the choice of material for long-lasting puppets.


Behind a stage and waist deep, puppeteers control the swift movements of each puppet with a pole and string hidden underwater.

Story telling went beyond normal conversation as a musical performance generally begins with background music played by a traditional Vietnamese orchestra and cheo (a traditional type of Vietnamese opera) singers.


The themes focus on national history, local folklore, legends that passed from generation to generation, and day-to-day living with a humorous twist.

This form of entertainment has traditionally served as a way to escape the current reality and to relax from a day of hard work.

Photo credits: Anna Levan, Peter Stuckings & Hanoi Photography /

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