Mua Roi Nuoc – “making puppets dance on water“

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Hanoi is the iconic Water Puppets Show!


Για αιώνες, τα παιδιά στο Βιετνάμ παρακολουθούν ένα μοναδικό είδος κουκλοθέατρου που εκτελείται στο νερό. Οι παίκτες των κούκλων βρίσκονται μέσα στο νερό και από εκεί κινούν τους πρωταγωνιστές.

Μια παραδοσιακή βιετναμέζικη ορχήστρα παίζει κατά τη διάρκεια της παράστασης, ενώ τραγουδιστές τραγουδούν την ιστορία της παράστασης. Τα θέματα προέρχονται από την καθημερινή ζωή στο Βιετνάμ αλλά και από παραμύθια και θρύλους.

Οι μαριονέτες είναι κατασκευασμένες από ξύλο, με ειδική επικάλυψη που προσφέρει στεγανότητα. Κάθε μαριονέτα είναι περίπου 70 εκατοστά και ζυγίζει 9-14 κιλά.



Οι ελιγμοί και οι κινήσεις τους, ανάλογα με το πόσο δύσκολοι είναι, μπορεί να γίνονται από 2 ή 3 άτομα, ενώ τα κόλπα τους διατηρούνται ως επτασφράγιστο μυστικό για αιώνες. Πρόκειται για μια δύσκολη εργασία καθώς οι παίκτες υποφέρουν συχνά από ρευματισμούς, ενώ στη σημερινή εποχή φοράνε ειδικές ενδυμασίες για να αντιμετωπίσουν επιπρόσθετα και το κρύο.


The tradition of water puppetry dates back to the 11th Century originating in the villages of the Red River Delta in Northern Vietnam. When the rice fields flooded, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.

Original water puppet festivals were those literally held inside a rice paddy, with a pagoda built on top to hide the puppeteers, who stand waist deep in water.


The water serves a dual purpose – it is the puppets’ stage whilst and a symbolic link to the rice harvest. It also hides the puppet operational equipment and puppeteer movements, enhances the acoustics and provides a shimmering lightening effect. Nowadays water puppet performances tend to be help in one of three venues – on village ponds, on portable tanks built for travelling performances or, as in Hanoi and major cities, in specialized water puppet theaters with specially constructed pool stages.



Puppets are carved from fig wood, the most endurable and suitable material and each can weigh up to 15kg. There are five main stages of construction. After being carved, any cracks are filled with lacquer. Then the artist covers them with nets for protection. Next, a mixture of Vietnamese lacquer and alluvium from the Red River is applied to the puppets. This stage is similar to plastering, which gives the puppets a waterproof surface. Next, artisans polish the surface and apply a black lacquer coating. Once dry the puppets are painted in a variety of colors forming their faces, figures and clothes.


Each water puppet show involves 7-11 puppeteers. They train for at least three years and in the past, the skill was passed from father to son. They stand behind a split-bamboo screen, decorated to resemble a temple facade from where they manipulate the puppets on their bamboo rods. Some of the dances, such as the lion and phoenix, are very energy consuming and require great practice and skill.

The movements have to match the up-tempo music and vividly resemble a lion and phoenix. Music is an integral part of the show with the instrumentalists often shouting words of encouragement to the puppets.

The orchestra consists of traditional Vietnamese instruments, with the bamboo flute’s clear, simple notes accompanying royalty, while drums and cymbals may announce a fire-eating dragon. Performances feature traditional legends and folklore while nowadays the art is also used to impart social and environmental messages.

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