Water puppetry – A key to Vietnamese culture

Water puppetry is a delightfully quirky form of theatre in which the action takes place on a stage of water. This tradition originated in the rice paddies of the northern Red River Delta, where performances still take place after the spring planting. Water puppetry as a folk art dates back to the 11th century. Communal ponds in Vietnam’s towns and villages were perfect stages for these charming impromptu performances. Most plays focus on the experiences of daily life in rural areas, while some share history and folklore of Vietnam. These plays are imparted from generation to generation, preserving the cultural legacy of the Vietnamese.

This traditional performance is mesmerizing to watch. Puppeteers stand waist-deep in water, obscured by a split-bamboo screen, as they manipulate the hand-painted wooden puppets attached to the end of long poles concealed beneath the water. Puppets of dragons, ducks, lions, unicorns, phoenixes, and frogs spout smoke, throw balls and dance on the watery stage as if almost by magic.

Visitors have the chance to experience this intangible heritage at sophisticated performances in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. You may even witness fireworks emerge to dance on the water, to simulate a naval battle.
Hanoi’s Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is one of the most popular attractions in the capital. Tickets often sell out well in advance, so be sure to book yours as soon as possible.

Contact Us to add this excursion to your Vietnam tour.