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July 27, 2011

Guangdong puppet in early Singapore?

I have previously mentioned that there are a few puppet types in Singapore during the early twentieth century:

1. Hokkien (Nanguan 南管) glove puppet/string puppet
2. Teochew iron stick puppet
3. Hainanese rod puppet
4. Henghwa string puppet
5. Waijiang (外江) string puppet

However, to my surprise, I have recently gathered some information which may hint at the existence of Guangdong traditional puppet in early Singapore. The advertisement below is one of them, even though it might not fall into the category of 'traditional' as I suspect that it is only a one-time kind of performance where the Merry Opera Company employed puppeteers who can perform in Cantonese. The puppet type is unknown.

Source: The Singapore Free Press, 22 October 1924, Page 2

Thanks to a friend who kindly shared with me a Chinese article on the various puppet/opera types in Malaya (and later Malaysia and Singapore), the author also mentioned that in 1911, there was a Guangdong puppeteer by the name of Zheng Wan Kai (郑万楷) who performed in Malaya. His son later performed in Singapore during the years 1916-1922. As the article did not state the exact source, I have reservations on its credibility but it is nevertheless an important view to be made. I will also reserve the use of "Cantonese puppet" as Guangdong may refer to various dialects like Chaozhou (Teochew) and Hakka (客家话), both of which are existing dialect groups in Singapore.

More discovery on the way!

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