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March 3, 2011

Remembering Mr. Lee Chye Ee (b. 1919)

Reading the old articles of the late Mr. Lee Chye Ee (b. 1919) reminds me of what it is meant to be "人才被埋没" (a talent gone to waste). He was a remarkable puppeteer, priest and carver from Yongchun, Fujian. During his darkest times, he never gave up and carved more than 100 puppets, including those where the eyes, mouth could move. I hope, in the near future, I will be able to do something to commemorate this remarkable man of talents.

Some information about Mr. Lee:
Learnt the puppetry art at the age of 15
Learnt the art of carving at the age of 17
Set up his own troupe "Ri Yue Xing" (日月星) in Yongchun, Fujian
Came to Singapore (Nanyang) in 1947 and established his troupe "Ri Yue Xing" here
"Ri Yue Xing" performed in the Nanguan (南管) style
In the 1950s, due to lack of popularity of Nanguan music, he founded "Shi Ye Fei" (是也非) and sang in the Gezai style
1960s: the semi-retired Mr. Lee shifted his operations to Malaysia
1970s: Came back but business was worse than before, stayed at home to carve puppets; over 100 marionette heads were carved over the 3 years but sadly, they were never really put to good use

Puppets carved by Mr. Lee Chye Ee (photo from Sin Ming)

Mr. Lee Chye Ee with his marionettes

Mr. Lee Chye Ee as a dan actor
Mr. Lee Chye Ee with his glove puppets

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