23 Mar 2017

The Tradition Concept of Modern Play_ Strange Story from a Chinese Studio, Taoist in Mountain Lao –Shadow Puppet Cantonese Opera Workshop

Promote traditional Chinese culture, inspire artistic potential

The Tradition Concept of Modern Play:
Strange Story from a Chinese Studio, Taoist in Mountain Lao
–Shadow Puppet Cantonese Opera Workshop

Thanks to the bureau and examiners in the past for the financial support and artistic guidelines given to my school art workshops, so that we in the “Journey to the West” programme application, increased emphasis and adjusted the composition of traditional Chinese opera part, and the planning and implementation respect toward traditional opera went a step further, we expect to be able to bring about an increasing interest of traditional Cantonese Opera in students.

The Sun Sun Art Troup has presented some inspirational stories from various famous Chinese Classic Books like “Biolography of Yue Fei”, “Romance of Three Kingdoms”, “Journey to the West”, “Outlaws of the Marsh” since 2009 and has received well success. In this project, we wish to introduce a project based on the well known story “Taoist in Mountain Lao” from “Strange Story from a Chinese Studio”.

Therefore, “Strange Story from a Chinese Studio, Taoist from Mountain Lao” is still based on “Monkey King three times tuning the fan” teaching scale and enhanced manner.

We intend to carry out the plan to deepen the adjustment from teaching, from popularizing traditional Chinese culture, and lay a good foundation to develop future artistic talent.

1. the fundamental class of four schools, an increase to ten sections from the original nine, opera teaching increased to three sections from the original two, instructors can more effectively guide students to some of the basic skills of Cantonese opera performances such as characteristics of opera dialogue reading and duet articulation, so that students have more time to learn and practice and more, to effectively use them in shadow puppet performance.
2. elementary class will be one school (they must have joined the fundamental class before). The programme comprises of 10 sections, Cantonese Opera course will increase from 2 classes to 5 classes. Focuses are Cantonese Opera Performance, Shadow Puppet Performance, making of shadow puppets, story writing etc.
a.  Cantonese Opera Course increased from 2 classes to 5 classes, so that the instructor has more time to give more thorough teaching in Cantonese Opera, content is to be divided to three parts:
Fundamental understanding: knowledge of Gongchepu (工尺譜) a traditional Chinese musical notation, skills of diaosang (吊嗓), importance and skills of articulation and teach some practice songs.
Basic Training: Includes waist and legs training, clouds hand (雲手), Difference of Stage catwalk of Sheng(生) and Dan(旦), round stage exercises, basic hand / sleeves movement etc; and how to apply what they have learned in shadow puppet opera performances.

Shadow Puppet show practice: Script reading, rehearsal etc.
In the day of performance, instructor will do interactive demonstration with students, students will teach other students in school and other audience so as to enlarge the number of involvement.
b.  Shadow puppet performance:
1. How to correctly manipulate shadow puppets
2. Learn how different characters move on stage and corresponding movement.
c.  Shadow puppet making: students learn how to make shadow puppet of the characters
1. How to draw exploded views
2. How to use different tools
3. How to add colour to shadow puppets
4. How to bind a shadow puppets

The need of the plan and the ability of the applicant

With the advancement of technology, modern cultural life has undergone tremendous changes, the decline of the traditional culture is a common problem in the world today, because of the characteristics of Chinese culture, such as traditional oral teaching, excellent traditional culture of the passage is particularly serious, even better retain traditional practices in Hong Kong cannot be avoided, such as Hong Kong’s most active opera traditional arts, the status quo cannot help but to face the lean actor and audience.

Workshops situation from my troupe ever undertaken, the Hong Kong students generally considered not understand Chinese traditional culture, past education give them insight of Western culture. Fortunately after the return of sovereignty, the SAR government has taken strong measures in this area to allow our young people to understand and get familiar with Chinese culture, when they come into contact with Chinese traditional culture they were shocked, lamented the original Chinese traditional culture is so beautiful and exquisite, and gradually develop keen interest, this is what inspires us with young children to accept, to promote the fine traditional culture of the driving force behind the opera. In the workshops we will use light and shadow play, a fun art for all ages, as an effective tool to guide students to try and learn the art of opera, transform the opera into a systematic, transferrable teaching method that allows students to truly comprehend to the traditional art of charm. Whenever the workshop ends, the students will express their wants to participate further, so the majority of schools and students continuously enrolled 3-4 times, we can see that the traditional art with superior vitality.

Ability of the applicant
1. Introduction of the troupe
The Sun Sun Art Troup was established in 2008, the founder, LI Jianxin is National First Class Actor of China, migrated to Hong Kong through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme. LI is an all-rounded actor specialized in script writing, directing, acting, designing, and producing. His scoop of creation includes fairy tales plays, tales plays, fable plays, burlesques, and traditional plays using shadow, puppets, human actors and multi-media.

In 2011 and 2012, the troupe was granted the Xiqu Education Project (6), (7). Allow students to experience the journey from strange to familiar with traditional Chinese art: opera performing, shadow plays, stories writing, even making a shadow is a very happy and desirable thing to them.
2. Our mission
To lead development of traditional Chinese cultural heritage and young people nourishment to one road, explore a win-win way of ancient culture and modern education.
Our members realize, if you don’t want the traditional culture to die, you must inject new blood to them. The old way needs to be kept up to date. The most important is to make the new generation understand, accept even like it. At the same time, with the sound development of modern society, the healthy growth of young people are unable to leave the fine traditional culture brought about by the historical heritage. From this viewpoint, we have to find a balance between traditional culture and modern education and become a troupe strive for the goal and motivation.
3. Similar project in the past
(1) 2014 Hong Kong Arts Development Council funded plan, sponsored by the school drama education promotion plan “traditional shadow concept modern play” (Cantonese Opera Shadow Puppet: The Romance Three Kingdoms, The Stratagem of Empty City) workshops.

(St. Paul’s College Primary School) LAU Kwan Chun wrote: China’s shadow puppet has a long history; it’s abundant in Chinese national characteristics, when I knew I had a chance to participate in the workshop. . . I was very happy, I am grateful to the instructor for the vivid storytelling, this is an unforgettable learning experience, and I hope to have the opportunity to participate again.

(St. Paul’s College Primary School) Chan Kin Tung wrote poetically:
             Chinese shadow puppet workshops, exciting and unforgettable.
            . . . . . .
            I learned a lot in this journey, not only to make puppets; we can also enjoy watching performances.
            After learning some basic skills, you can start to play freely, you can turn, you can jump.
            Next was the time for discussion, on how to adapt from the story your show,
            Finally we decided to make the theme “Halloween”, combination of Chinese and Western.
            Then began to learn to sing opera,
            Made the class laugh.
            . . . . . .

(Lee Kau Yan Memorial School) decided to have a performance in school at last at the beginning of the nine workshops, so that we can share the workshop’s result with four hundred students. Day of warm applause, laughter is the best encouragement to the students, (already completely videoed) Students performing fire light manipulation reluctantly sighed that the workshop ended too soon, and hope to have the opportunity to continue.

(2), 2013 Hong Kong Arts Development Council funded plan, sponsored by the school drama education promotion plan “traditional shadow concept modern play” (Cantonese Opera Shadow Puppet articles : Journey to the West, “Monkey King Three times fight the Skeleton Demon”) workshops.

    2013 (North Lamma public elementary school) Sri Lankan student wrote:
       This was my third time playing with shadow puppets. l am very happyto join the class and perform for the school because it is a wonderful experience. l am pleased to have the teachers who come all the way from central and help us play the puppets. l liked doing the show because the characters are very funny and really interesting. The monkey was my favorite. l was a pig in the act  They taught us lots of skills sothat we can perform very well. l liked every part of the lessons. l wish lcould do the shadow puppet classes again. l really appreciate thechances of playing these puppets. l hope l will have a chance of joining the shadow puppets show when l go to the secondary school. My sistersaid she wants to joio after watching the show.

    (3),  2012 Hong Kong Arts Development Council funded plan, sponsored by the school drama Program (seven) “traditional shadow concept modern play” (opera Shadow articles : The Romance of Three Kingdoms – “Battle of Red Cliff”) workshops.
           (Lee Kau Yan Memorial School) Cheung, the Vice President wrote: “Dear Mister Li, I am glad to have got your guidance, the students’ shadow puppet show “Battle of Red Cliff” on December 15 was very exciting, though it’s a pity that we failed to share with more students. We cordially invite you to come again on January 22, to help plan for show again. ”

         (Ju Ching Chu Secondary School) Kwok Wing Yee (teaching assistant), wrote: “The majority of young people now don’t have special feeling for the Chinese culture and art, probably because they have no contact to it, they do not know how fun it is, also may be the lack of creative space. However, this time how the students were involved surprised me …… remember once, students need to learn to sing opera, many students were reluctant to it at first, but ultimately for the sake of performance, the students were willing to open learning. ”

(4), 2011 Hong Kong Arts Development Council funded plan, sponsored by the school drama Program (six) “traditional shadow concept modern play” (Cantonese Opera Shadow Puppet articles “Biography of Yue Fei” Liang Hongyu drumming) workshops.
    2012, led students from Kit Sam Lam Bing Yim Secondary School to participate the “Mini Festival of World Puppetry for Purpose”.
    (Kit Sam Lam Bing Yim Secondary School) Lam Yuen Yu wrote: “…… my understanding towards shadow puppetry increases like building a small hut in an open space, also I have peeped at a small corner of Chinese culture.”
    (Kit Sam Lam Bing Yim Secondary School) Chan Sin Tung wrote: Many of us are in contact Western art, and our understanding of art of our own country turned out to be so not deep, what comes to Cantonese opera, Peking opera, previously I do not appreciate them, but now I at least know what is sheng (生), what is the dan(旦) … … In fact, what is art to us? Is it entertainment? Is it knowledge? Thanks teacher for fighting for this workshop for us.”

Goals and objectives
(1) Short term objective:
Let students who have never contacted opera culture to understand, to accept and even to like both shadow puppetry and Cantonese opera. More, to have introductory understanding in Chinese classical literature.
(2) Long term objective:
a. For traditional opera: we wish to benefit students in two aspects:
1. For those who has never been in contact with Chinese Opera, we want to enlighten and encourage them, so that they can learn how to appreciate, then they can try to perform opera as a “third party”, shadow puppets. After they gone through a special experience in Chinese Opera, they have more appreciation rather than exclusion.
2. For those who have basic knowledge, they gain a new horizon by combining shadow puppetry and Cantonese Opera. They can know more deeply about Chinese traditional arts, it Consolidate their mastery of opera culture, deepen education.
If these two kinds of students become fond of Chinese Opera, we can refer them some current Peking Opera/ Cantonese Opera for deeper learning, it facilitates the heritage of Cantonese Opera.

b. About Classic Literature
Through modern way of shadow puppet to interpret “Taoist of Mountain Lao” from “Strange Story from a Chinese Studio”, students will be enlightened artistically. It greatly improves their knowledge of Classic Chinese Literature and their language ability.

(3) targets and the expected number of beneficiaries
1. Number of classes: 5 schools, 4 for fundamental course and 1 for elementary class.
2. Target: Student from p.3 to s.6
3. Number of beneficiaries: (1) Direct beneficiaries: 16 students in each class, around   
18 in total
                     (2)Indirect beneficiaries: the 9th class will be performance, it is estimated that a total of 300 to 1000 students and teachers watching the show.


1. Source of creativity
Cantonese Opera from Southern drama, , it began in Guangdong, Guangxi Cantonese district since the Ming Dynasty Jiajing period. It is a blend of singing doing reading, music, stage costumes, abstract form of performing arts and so on. Cantonese opera in Hong Kong, though having a higher status, the audience is still lean existence, how to get young people and even children understand and accept this ancient and precious art form is an issue that all people in the cultural industry are thinking about.
Shadow theatre is known as “Ancestor of plays”, her history is longer than other form of stage drama. It is believed to be first created during the Western Han Dynasty two thousand years ago, in its heyday during the Qing Dynasty in Hebei. November 26, 2011, UNESCO declared that Chinese shadow play which has thousand years of history will be included in the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” In contemporary society, because of the wonderful characteristics of light, shadow still has some child audience.
Both Cantonese opera or traditional shadow puppet play portray classical literature in shows, such as “The Romance of Three Kingdoms”, “Outlaws of the Marsh”, “Journey to the West”, “Dream of Red Mansions”, “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio” and so on. In school, to promote classic literature is an indispensable part to promote traditional Chinese culture and heritage.

2. Combination of two opera arts and Classic Literature
The Troupe members have been engaged in shadow puppetry work for many years. They have a deep understanding in characteristics of different genres, and different kinds of folk drama plays. Around the country, music, singing style and rhythm absorb the essence of their local opera, folk art, folk songs, and music system, such as Shaanxi shadow play uses Xianpan Aria (弦板腔), Agong Aria (阿宮腔), Wan Wan Aria (碗碗腔), Changsha shadow puppetry work adopt Xiang Ju (湘劇), Flower Drum Opera (花鼓戲) and other music singing aria. So The Troupe members believe that the combination of shadow puppetry and Cantonese opera is entirely feasible: Shadow puppet manipulation as manifestation of drama activities, with Cantonese opera music accompaniment, and the suitable amount of opera arias, so that children in contact with opera-like during the game. After deep thoughts of the members, classic literatures will be chosen as source of stories as they are already usual scripts of plays. Moreover, the four classics of Chinese literature are constantly adapted to movies, TV dramas, animation and games, which are attractive to children, so the stories soon become favorable to them.

Implementation Plan
1. Teaching Masterplan
Objective Content
First part demonstration Includes hand shadow, paper shadow, shadow puppets. Students will watch the evolution from traditional shadow puppets to modern shadow puppets, understand Chinese Shadow theatre in a multi-angle, multi-form and comprehensive way, and generate goodwill and enthusiasm of theirs.
Second part
(main body of the project) (fundamental courses in 4 schools)
Training in performing “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio, Taoist of the Mountain Lao” he shadow puppetry work play is the best type of performing the story on stage, the visual effect perfectly compensate the shortcomings of the vagaries of stage performance and this in turn makes it welcome among students. Highlighted will be Sheng (生), Dan (旦), Zheng (淨), Chou (醜) etc, to  audition practice (including studying and using opera singing lines)Thus, the students participate through rehearsals, some plot creation, opera style of singing dialogue exercises, drama used shadow creation even produced and performed sharing, extend and deepen students’ understanding of opera and shadow play.
Students will be divided into two groups, the two groups have to work with each other during rehearsal. One group manipulates the puppets while the other sing the dialogues. It is to cater for the insufficiency of not being able to do both things at the same time for beginners.
(elementary course in 1 school)
Training in performing “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio, Taoist of the Mountain Lao”
1. One of the performances will be in Cantonese opera only
2. Students manipulate their own puppets A. Ground knowledge of Cantonese Opera:
Gongchepu (工尺譜), Skills of Diao Sang (吊嗓), importance and skills of articulation In Cantonese Opera, and some practice songs.
Basic Skills practice: training of waist and legs, Cloud Hand (雲手), difference of catwalk of Sheng (生) and Dan (旦), round stage exercises, basic hand / sleeves movement etc; and how to apply what they have learned in shadow puppet opera performances.
Play rehearsal: Script reading, rehearsal etc.

At the day of performance, the instructor will lead interactive demonstration; students will teach other students as a small teacher.
B. Shadow puppet performing:
1. Know how to correctly manipulate puppets
2. Know the stage movement and hand movement of Sheng (生) Dan (旦) Jing (淨) Chou (醜)
C. Shadow puppet creation:
Students learn to make puppets used in the show.
1. Draw exploded view
2. Use tools
3. Colour the puppets
4. Bind the puppets

Course description
Subject Training in performing “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio, Taoist of the Mountain Lao”
Structure 10 classes in total, 90 minutes each
The 10th lesson will be in school performance for 20-30 minutes (60 minutes if include rehearsal time)
Details Demonstration of different kinds of shadow puppet plays
Fundamental courses in 4 schools
Elementary course in 1 school
Training in performing “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio, Taoist of the Mountain Lao” 1. Learn and application of different arias
2. 2-4 students wear in sheng (生) and Dan (旦) costumes to assist performance
3. Skills of manipulating shadow puppets
4. Discussion in creation of new story
5. Discussion in new plays
6. Design and creation of shadow puppets
7. Elementary course will have Cantonese Opera performance
Result 1. They perform with Cantonese Opera elements, they know and practice a Cantonese Opera show.
2. They immerse themselves in joy of group creation

Structure of idea

To understand tradition by tradition, and by using an art form that is more familiar with and easily acceptable to students and a tradition art media that is closer to theatre mode – Shadow Puppet, to dabble in the world and the culture and knowledge of opera.
Biggest difference between Shadow Theatre and Drama is “Graphic Vision” and “Stereoscopic Vision”, what they have in common is that they all use drama elements; their individuality is to different degree they express. Three-dimensional way stage performance stage must concentrate and streamline on a flat surface, like to walk round the stage, simplify all complexity, but basically there won’t be any changes in the basic elements. Meanwhile, shadow puppet opera is interesting and easy to learn, so it is generally more acceptable to young people. It is of great help to facilitate promotion traditional opera in among young people.

Schedule and implementation

1. Schedule
May 2014: Promotion and recruitment of project
1st September 2015: Project start
31st February 2016: End of project

2. Teaching Plan and specific curriculum (exact time depends on school)

description programme Method/ point to note Exercise after lesson Remarks
1st class Have basic understanding in “Opera art” Explain what is opera, what is shadow puppetry. Mainly watching videos Each student has to do research and prepare for own story creation Questions to students:
1. What is the for Classics of Chinese Literature?
2. Who is the author of “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio”? When was it written?
3. What is the theme of the story?
4. Can you use your imagination to creation anything not ever appeared in the story?
Demonstration Shadow puppet, paper puppet, hand puppet
Student trial Shadow puppet of characters in the story
Script analysis Instructor talks about script creation
Students discuss what opera is
Group discussion on the theme
Divide students in groups and each responsible for different set of script
2nd class
3rd class By group learning the dubbing method. Students rehearse with props.
Learn basic body movement and gesture of different characters By group rehearsal.
Elementary class learn how to perform with shadow puppets. One group learn the script. Students go on searching story elements, prepare for their own story creation.

After collecting students’ scripts, instructor will do edit of scripts and music Questions:
1. What is drama? What is opera? How are the two related?
2. What are the terms Sheng (生), Dan (旦), Jing (淨), Chou (醜)? What do they mean?
3. What kind of business are each characters doing?
4. What are Singing, speech, acting, acrobatics?
5. What is the artistic style of opera? How is it different from movie and TV shows?
One group learn puppet manipulation
Instructor combine movement and script of Sheng (生) and Dan (旦) Student feel the rhythm of play
Students wear costumes, try the movement, gesture, use of sleeves and expression of eyes
Instructor teaches the creation of script Basic elements of script creation
Relationship between story and script
Creation rules
Method to create small play
Ways to choose music and character design
Prepare for student self creation Feedback
4th Class Script revision, rehearsal of the selected story. Discussion on the self creation part By group activities One group reads the script Script revision, keep searching for materials for the new story After creating stories, instructor will make choice of what to accept or reject in the script. (Then discuss with the students)
One group rehearse, learning how to manipulate puppets
Re-divide students into two groups and have discussion on the theme of the story. Create own stories that are related to the theme Make plan of direction
Each group assigns work to each member. Work includes: Characters design, music design etc
5th class Puppet creation, use of tools.
Students make props for their own story Two groups make props Students make own decision on drawing plans and method Script revision or make own script according to the instruction of the instructor Instructor make shadow puppets while doing preparation (background design, exploded view of characters, binding method of characters, binding of complex puppets)
Learn how to make puppets
Script revision.
Instructor combine movement and script of Sheng (生) and Dan (旦) Some students make scripts of their own create stories (They can determine which language to use according to the content)
6th and 7th class Dubbing in the scene, rehearsal of the creation By group rehearsal of the play Students use their props in rehearsal Revision of the script according to the instruction of instructor Instructor do music edit during preparation time
Dubbing in the scene Dubbing and rehearsal at the same time
8th and 9th class Rehearsal of the selected story and student self create story Rehearsal for 1 to 2 times
Instructor combine movement and script of Sheng (生) and Dan (旦) Live recording School teachers help arrange students to write a passage on Chinese Opera or Shadow Puppet for around 200 words
10th class Performance.
Students appreciate their own work to acquire a sense of satisfaction and self confience Play video Watch with students the learning process Instructor give the school all files eg audio recording, videos for filing
Rehearsal Performance and script coordination
performance Students prepare the props they need and place them in suitable place
Students perform.
Instructor demonstrate interation
Give feedback Students talk about their experience and how they feel during the process.
Conclusion Instructor listen to opinions from school and students

Portfolio of members

1. Person responsible
LI Jianxin: Head of the troupe
2. Instructor:
LI Jianxin:
National first class actor of China, member of Chinese Dramatists Association, migrated to Hong Kong through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, now a appraiser of Hong Kong Arts Development Council Drama Group. Have work in the field of shadow puppetry for more than 40 years. He has created his own “Li Manipulation Method” (been promoted since the 90’s) from traditional Northern-Southern drama skills, and was granted “Excellent Young Actor” in Hunan Province and “The Best Performance Award” in The First Chinese Young People Skills Contest. He has written and directed lots of shadow fairy tales play, traditional plays, fable plays etc. “The three mouse” of his is the only Chinese Shadow Play that is granted the highest national award- “Wenhua New Program Award” by the Chinese Ministry of Culture. He is also the first one to create a shadow theatre combining hand shadow, paper shadow, and shadow puppet in Hong Kong.

He has been long working in Drama in Education, taught in the Art Institute of Hunan Vocational for three years, and a professional teacher in college level shadow puppetry.

DENG Younong:
Artistic Director of Sun Sun Art Troupe, National second class actor, member of China Shadow Puppet Society. In his more than 30 years of shadow puppet performing life, he created shows with SUN Wukong, province official, NA Zha and mouse as main characters. “Three Mouse” was granted “Outstanding Performance Award”, “Wenhua New Program Award” by the Chinese Ministry of Culture. He has been teacher in Art Institute of Hunan Vocational (secondary and tertiary) for two years, professional teacher of shadow puppetry, Vocal teacher and Mandarin Speech Tutor.

Au Shuk Yee
Followed LIU Yanhua, a celebrated singing instructor, to learn singing.

1997-98: Took the Chinese Opera Training Programme co-organized by the Chinese University School of Continuing Studies and Hong Kong Institute of eight and opera

1998-2001: admitted to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and took a Cantonese Opera Training programme co-organized by the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the Hong Kong Institute of eight and opera. Graduated with certificate in Opera training (training) Certificate Course.

2003-2005: studied in Gambhir Opera School and was a student of Ms Tsang Yuk. Then learned basic skills of Chinese Opera from Ms Wong Ka Ling and Ms Chow Li Li, and Kwan Sai Chun afterwards.

2009: received a certificate of Music theory test certificate by “Shanghai Conservatory of Music”

She started teaching Cantonese Opera since 2001 in various primary and secondary schools and social organizations. And holds talk for schools on Cantonese Opera.

Expected impact of the projects

1. Students have chance to try performing, and to engage in a performance. So they will know more about shadow puppetry thoroughly.
2. Allow students who has rare or no contact with traditional Chinese Opera to understand it. Brand new method is used, it brings education sector to a new level of traditional art form learning and get Hong Kong prepared for more involvement of arts in education.
3. Abundant student’s understanding in the oldest Theatre art “Shadow Puppetry”, deepen students’ interest in Chinese Opera.
4. Students have basic knowledge on skills of performing Chinese Opera, arouse interest of Cantonese Opera among students.
5. Students have chance to create their own shadow puppet play, they will be benefited in different aspect: Literature, arts, music, performing, handcraft.
6. Increase students’ language ability by reading the classic story book “Strange Stories in a Chinese Studio”
7. Props made and bought are reusable.
8. It has the potential to be promoted further to the education sector.