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June 27, 2013

Chinese puppets have a story to tell (Part I)

Traditional Chinese puppet theatre is typically performed in dialect and in modern day Singapore, it has lost a large part of its audience as many youngsters do not understand their ancestral vernacular. The Henghua community whose ancestors came from Putian (Eastern Fujian) is a minority dialect group in Singapore, making this vernacular comprehensible to only a small group of people. Having the fortune to read through the playscript, I shall try my best to use the photos as a storyboard to tell a classical story of Henghua puppet theatre. The title of the show is the same as the protagonist of this story: Chen Wen Long (陈文龙)

 Main protagonist Chen Wenlong 
Chen Wenlong was born into a rich family but was reduced to rags when his father passed away. In imperial China, one of the ways to escape poverty is to take the imperial examinations which would allow successful candidates to get a post as an official. However, Chen was so poor that he could not afford the money for travelling to the capital to take the examinations. His mother advised him to pay his betrothed family a visit to seek financial assistance. 

Chen faces Su's humiliation
Travelling for miles, Chen eventually arrived at his betrothed family-the Su family. Not only was Chen not welcomed in the Su family, Mr. Su humiliated him. Mr. Su had heard news of Chen Wenlong's  situation and had wanted to call off the engagement. When Chen arrived at his residence, Mr. Su jumped at the chance. He suggested giving Chen some money as compensation for calling off the engagement. Chen refused to call off the engagement and was locked in a cellar by the cold-hearted Su. Chen was even threatened that he would be beaten if he did not succumb to calling off the engagement. 

Maid related the bad news to Su Bixia
Meanwhile, the maid of the Su household overhead news of Chen Wenlong being locked in a cellar by Mr. Su. She immediately told Su Bixia (苏碧霞), the daughter of Mr. Su, who was engaged to Chen Wenlong. Su Bixia was astonished to receive the news and decided to think of a plan to save Chen. 

Servant of Su household threatened Chen Wenlong
As instructed by the cruel Su, a servant arrived at the cellar where Chen was locked in. He threatened to beat Chen to his death if he did not agree to cancel the engagement. 

Su Bixia to the rescue
The servant threw fists and kicks at Chen who tried to escape. Fortunately, Su Bixia and her maid arrived in time to stop the servant from hurting Chen further. 

Mrs. Su helped with the escape
Su Bixia rescued Chen from the cellar and just then, her mother Mrs. Su appeared. She also took pity with Chen's situation and advised him to quickly leave their house to avoid getting beaten up again. She also gave him some money for travel.

What will happen to Chen after he escaped? To be continued in the next post...   

1 comment:

  1. anxiously waiting for the next installment of the story.