Puppetry is a traditional form of art that has been closely associated with the rich spiritual life of the Vietnamese people. There are many types of puppet shows found all over the country and one of the most popular is the Water Puppet Show in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Vietnamese word “roi”, which means puppetry, has become widely part of proper names being used in many villages, pagodas and even ponds around the country. Puppetry art has been intensely developed, diversified and popularized mostly in the northern midland areas and plains of Vietnam. Water puppetry ultimately upholds the culture and traditions of not only the city of Ho Chi Minh but of the entire country as well. These puppet shows are among the most ancient forms of art as well as among the most entertaining: visitors watch delightfully-ornamented figures come to life in a choreographed water dance.
Credit for the popularity of these shows goes to the well-trained puppeteers, actors and actresses who make puppets look like normal human beings that float on water. They also make dragons and dogs look real as they dance along to traditional Vietnamese music.
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The puppeteers are usually hidden behind a large screen where they control the marionettes with large rods and poles under waist-deep water. The musicians, on the other hand, are found on the other side of the pool and provide music and sound effects to the water puppets by use of traditional instruments.
Water puppetry has not changed much over the years and over centuries. Typical themes usually revolve around deeply rooted rural traditions such as rice harvesting, fishing and village folklore. Most of the wooden puppets used in water puppetry are handmade and can weigh up to 30 pounds each. For the more complex puppets, two people are required to carry and maneuver them. The stage is also decorated with vivid colors along with colored stage lights and foggy mist, which only adds to the mystery of the water.
The secrets of how puppeteers control the puppets by making them appear flawlessly gliding along the water have been closely guarded for centuries. Many people, especially foreigners, have then been challenged to figure out what the secret is.
In keeping with the tradition, water puppet shows are often performed entirely in the Vietnamese language. Luckily, language barriers are not a problem as the colorful puppet theatrics of the show are enough to keep people entertained. In Ho Chi Minh City, there are two venues where tourists can see water puppet shows, one is at the History Museum while the other is at the Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theater found inside the Tao Dan Park. The Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater in Ho Chi Minh City regularly sells out so make sure to buy your tickets in advance. There are usually two daily shows with an added show during the weekends. Visitors should definitely consider going to see the shows, as the water puppet show in Ho Chi Minh City is an art form that provides the most authentic, pleasing and entertaining experience to many visitors of Vietnam.