When spring comes, people flock to Dao Thuc village on the outskirts of Hanoi to watch comical water puppet performances.
Dao Thuc village, nestled in Dong Anh district, is famous for its 300-year-old water puppetry. A villager named Dao Dang Vinh, who fell in love with water puppetry, worked tirelessly to pass down the art to the next generation. For his merit, a stone stele honoring him was erected in 1735. On Vinh’s death anniversary on the 24th day of the 2nd lunar month, local people light incense to honor him as the founder of Dao Thuc water puppetry.
The puppets are made by the Dao Thuc villagers. They are about 30-40cm tall and made of painted wood. Each puppet represents a famous character of a Vietnamese folktale. Dao Thuc water puppetry possesses has a repertoire of more than 20 stories, featuring rural activities: ploughing, planting rice, tending buffalos, fishing, swinging, dancing and singing.
Dinh Huu Tu has performed Dao Thuc water puppetry for more than 30 years. He said “When I was very small, I began watching water puppetry performed by the village elders. I found it interesting and took up the career. Newcomers must practice manipulating the puppets one movement at a time, first on the land and then in water. Puppeteers must coordinate their movements with the music.”
The Dao Thuc water puppetry troupe has 30 members. The oldest is over 70 and the youngest is a student. They perform almost daily in spring time, inspiring young villagers to get involved in this job.
15-year-old Dinh Hoang Van said "I have loved water puppetry since my childhood. That’s why I have joined the troupe and committed myself to preserving my ancestors’ craft. My favorite plays are “Warrior fights tiger” and “Up onto the palanquin and down from the horse.”
Visitors to Dao Thuc village are treated to lovely performances and poignant folksongs. Ngo Minh Phong, Head of Dao Thuc Water Puppetry Troupe, said “Local leaders are working to make Dao Thuc water puppetry more popular. Young talents are encouraged to join our troupe. Training is has been intensified. We hope the younger members will help promote our traditional art.”
The Dao Thuc water puppetry repertoire is now included in many tourism itineraries. Nguyen Dong Dai, Director General of the FPT Travel Company, said “This is a major cultural tourism destination. We arrange large groups to watch the Dao Thuc village water puppetry and tour adjacent areas in Dong Anh and Hanoi.”
“Seeing is believing”. Come to Dao Thuc, just 20km from Hanoi’s center, and experience water puppetry that has been preserved down through many generations.