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April 8, 2013

Puppets from Quanzhou

In Singapore, the Hokkien (Minnan) performs mainly 2 types of puppet theatre: string puppet and glove puppet. Even though the performance is staged in the Hokkien dialect, the appearance of the puppets tend to differ, depending on where they are bought. I happened to spot the puppets from the Xiao Feng String Puppet Troupe (筱凤加礼戏班) which was performing at Geylang Lor 27A on 12 March.

The puppets hanging backstage caught my eye. They resembled puppets from Quanzhou, marked by their protruding earlobes and double chin. These characteristics are seen in Buddhist religious figures too (Ruizendaal 2006, 118-119).

Double chin, more obvious for the young male/sheng character seen here

For a good read on Quanzhou puppets, I will recommend Robin Ruizendaal, Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou (Brill, 2006).

The puppet theatre in Quanzhou has received international acclaim for its exquisite string manipulation of 36 strings or more. In the Singapore case, there are only about 10-12 strings. It is believed that the more strings there are, it allows the puppeteer to better present the delicate movements of the puppet. 

According to Ruizendaal, the term "Jia Li" (ka lei in Hokkien) as seen in the troupe name of Xiao Feng, may refer to "excellent rites theatre" or "additional rites theatre" (Ruizendaal 2006, 184). The term "Ka lei" has become commonly associated with string puppet theatre in Singapore.


  1. Hi do you happen to have the contact number of this troupe? need it urgently. it would be great if you could help.

    1. Hi Seri, nice to hear from you. The contacts for this troupe are 96153983, 8299 9918. Hope this helps.