piyingxi (Shadow Puppet)

About this object

History of use

This piyingxi (shadow puppet) character, Monkey King, is from the classic Chinese narrative, “Journey to the West,” sometimes known as “Monkey King,” which is full of action, acrobatics, and martial arts. Puppets 3338/8-20 represent the four main characters (Pigsy, Monkey King, Sandman, Buddhist Monk), their horse, and the Eight Immortals, who are associated with the stylized clouds (3338/21-22), which indicate their identities as immortal beings.

Iconographic meaning

The puppet is made in a classic north-eastern design (Luanzhou), from Luanzhouzhen in Heibei Province, one of the historically renowned regions of shadow puppetry in China.

Specific techniques

The leather is scraped extremely thin which, together with their jointed limbs, makes these puppets highly flexible when they perform high kicks, jumps, and flips. When performing, their distinctive designs and vibrant colours are visible on the glowing screen, enhancing the magical effects of the characters in motion.

Physical description

Sun Wukong (Monkey King) shadow puppet with separate head (part b) and gold staff(?) (part c). Depicted with a human-like body, and monkey head. He wears a long yellow tunic with red tie ending in green tassels around his waist, and red pants. On his feet he wears tiger(?) shoes. His head is yellow with five black spots, except for a mask-like area around his eyes and nose. Limbs jointed with fibre at the shoulders, elbows and hips. Operated by three rods. The staff is yellow, with a thin red outline, and is operated by one rod.