Restaged Puppet Show The Journey West: White Bone Fiend Re-Interprets Classic Chinese Epic Myth
Singapore, 2 August 2022 – After 12 years, Paper Monkey provides a fresh take in its latest restaging of the classic epic tale The Journey West: White Bone Fiend. Opening on Mid-Autumn Festival, the show is the perfect occasion for children to learn more about our unique Chinese Singaporean culture.
Directed by artistic director, Benjamin Ho, the restaged work will see a new script and new puppets. Another innovation will be the inclusion of percussion on the left side of the stage, breaking away from the conventional staging of puppet shows. The performance will feature 30 traditional Chinese hand-puppets and pili puppets handcrafted by the well-known second-generation Taiwanese puppet-maker, Mr Hsu Chien-Jhang. Exquisitely made at great cost with life-like features, these puppets are also highly valued by collectors.
A second-generation puppet maker, Mr Hsu started to learn the art of puppet-making whilst he was in secondary school. Mr Hsu first came to know of Paper Monkey Theatre at an international puppetry festival in Yunlin county, Taiwan, and later was engaged as the Puppet Designer and Maker of Paper Monkey Theatre’s productions that involved traditional Chinese hand puppets and Pili puppets.
When The Journey West: White Bone Fiend was first staged in 2009 and 2010, the performances showcased several types of puppetry, such as hand-puppetry, rod-puppetry and shadow-puppetry. The key characters, Sun Wu Kong and White Bone Fiend were played by actors who performed man-to-man fighting scenes as well as man-to-puppet battling scenes.
This is the first performance co-presented by Paper Monkey and Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, under the auspices of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in February 2022 to deepen ties and develop new programmes to promote Chinese Singaporean arts and culture.
Puppet maker also created puppets for Taiwanese hit film Detention
Hand-puppets crafted by Mr Hsu appeared in the well-received Taiwanese film Detention. The puppet’s cold and peculiar demeanour was specially designed and sculpted by him . Armed with 30 years of puppet-making experience, Mr Hsu has been seeking breakthroughs in puppet-making, such as incorporating anime and comic elements in hand-puppets for a more refined look.
Differences in puppetry performances in Singapore and Taiwan
Mr Hsu also pointed out that much innovation could be seen in Singapore’s puppet shows, which was very different from Taiwanese puppet shows. He felt that puppet culture in Singapore had evolved over many years and developed a distinctive style and format.
In the early history of puppetry culture, puppets were designed before their clothes. Nowadays, there are specialists who style and design clothes for puppets. For more than 140 years, there have been three types of Taiwanese puppet shows. The first used traditional hand-puppets which were the smallest in size at just more than 20cm in height. The puppet could be manipulated and held by one hand. During the era of glove-puppetry, puppet shows were performed in temples or on a temporary stage in an open space. Larger puppets of approximately 45cm in height were used. Bigger puppets were created so that they could be visible from a distance during outdoor performances and eventually television shows. By then, the puppets were as tall as 90cm with movable mouths and eyes. Puppets also had facial features and limbs that were more human-like.
The creation of a puppet was either a ten or twelve-step process, depending on whether there was a need to craft movable eyes and mouths. The handcrafting process was complicated and subjected to weather conditions. Making a puppet with a movable mouth and eyes would require a week’s work.
Introduction to The Journey West: White Bone Fiend story
In this episode from the well-loved Chinese epic adventure, Journey to the West, Master Tang San Zang and his disciples encounter the White Bone Fiend in their travels. Intent on eating the flesh of Master Tang, the demoness tricks him into expelling Sun Wu Kong, the Monkey God from the group. Will she succeed or will Wu Kong save the day?
Be delighted by this lively parable about trust enacted by Taiwanese hand-puppets and pili-puppets. As the evil White Bone Fiend took different forms and successfully drove a wedge between Master Tang and his disciples, Sun Wu Kong left in anger and Master Tang was kidnapped. Find out how Sun Wu Kong will save Master Tang in this classic tale with a twist!
Date: 9 to 11 September 2022
Ticket price: $26 and $30 (not inclusive of booking and administrative fees)
Special promotion for a bundle of 4 tickets – $96
PAssion, SAFFRA and HomeTeamNS card holders can enjoy 15% discount (not including bundle promotion of 4 tickets)
Venue: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, Far East Organization Auditorium, Level 9
Language: Chinese (with English subtitles)
Tickets can be purchased via SISTIC
As part of its commitment to accessibility, SCCC is happy to provide complimentary access to its onsite and online programmes for local charities, especially those with a focus on seniors. Please contact email@example.com for more details.
Journey to the West – a well-loved classic tale in the 70s and 80s
In the 1970s, Journey to the West kickstarted a soda drink trend in Singapore. Many youngsters spent a good amount of their pocket-money on buying soda drinks to collect the bottle caps printed with different characters from the story. In the 1980s, the story was adapted into a television series and many Singaporeans were rooted in front of their televisions once the series soundtrack came on. Many children saw Sun Wu Kong, the Monkey God who was righteous and had superpowers, as their superhero.
Journey to the West was part of many Singaporeans’ childhood memories and the White Bone Fiend episode was one of its most captivating stories. Come for this performance and be mesmerised by the wide array of looks and styles created for different puppets, fascinating stage effects and traditional live music!
The evolution of traditional puppet shows in Taiwan and Singapore
Puppetry culture was introduced to Southeast Asia from China where it had been first performed more than 300 years ago. In the early days, hand-puppet shows were performed in temples and other places where people gathered.
In Taiwan, puppet shows have been adapted for television for many years, reflecting its evolution over more than 140 years.
Learn about our annual awards
Collaborate with us today
Find out how to support Chinese culture in Singapore