Digital exhibition of shadow puppetry gives traditional art a new look

An avant-garde art exhibition based on Chinese shadow puppetry is currently running simultaneously in the North Bund area of Shanghai and Shenzhen City in Guangdong, where it features a collection of over 3,000 digitalized shadow puppets.


The Monkey King, the tiger slayer Wu Song, the White Snake... heroes from classic Chinese stories appear one after another in this exhibition – or at least their shadows do. It creates an immersive visual feast of light and shadow for the audience. 

Co-produced by the Chinese Temple of Light and French visual studio Danny Rose, the exhibition gives shadow play – a time-honored folk art with a history of around 2,100 years – a new look with the help of cutting-edge technology. 

The creation team used over 3,000 ultra-high-resolution photos of original shadow puppets and visited many folk artisans and the renowned Mashi Family Shadow Play troupe to capture the complex movements of the animations. 

Chinese shadow puppetry is performed by colorful human, animal, or mythological figures made from leather or paper, mirrored on the curtain by light and accompanied by music and singing. This art form, which originated in northwest China during the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), was once a popular form of entertainment across China and was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2011. 

The exhibition in Shanghai runs until November 30. After that it will embark on a world tour, bringing Chinese shadow puppetry to Paris, Madrid, London and Dubai.

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