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SHADOW PUPPET, TORTOISE
ASIAN ETHNOGRAPHIC COLLECTION
 
Catalog No: 70 /10077
Culture: CHINESE
Country: CHINA
Material: HIDE, PIGMENT, BAMBOO, METAL, THREAD
Dimensions: PUPPET) L:32.5 W:17.5 H:.4 WITH ROD) L:37.5 D:5 (in CM)
Acquisition Year: 1903 [EXPEDITION]
Donor: LAUFER, BERTHOLD
Keywords: SHADOW PUPPET
Category: RECREATIONAL ARTIFACTS
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Shadow theater is a popular, centuries-old form of entertainment and political engagement in China. This puppet is from the famous play The White Snake, which tells the story of a snake spirit who, disguised as a woman, defies nature by falling in love with a human. The tortoise is a background character, one of many water creatures in the drama. Meant to imitate an actor dressed in a costume, the puppet possesses human-like arms and legs. The puppet’s elongated neck and dragon-like face indicate that it is a supernatural tortoise. In Chinese mythology, tortoises symbolize longevity and the North Star, and they are also closely associated with dragons and snakes. Such supernatural subjects are perfectly suited for shadow puppetry, which manipulates light and color to depict flight, growth, shrinkage, hiddenness, and other magical illusions.
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