Taiwanese puppetry–Budaixi (布袋戲): 3. Future development

Posted: 2014 年 05 月 13 日 in Taiwanese puppetry (Budaixi)
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What lies ahead?

Where does the future of the art lay? There needs to be a greater interest in the traditional form in order for it to survive, or else this will turn into a piece of history only to be seen in a museum. Ten years ago budaixi were used to celebrate major occasions such as Buddha’s birthday, these days the appearance of these performances is limited to cultural centers and universities.

Mr. Chen went back to China to find someone to help him with the production of budaixi, but all he found is that nobody even knew what budaixi are. With occurrences such as the Cultural Revolution (文化大革命), it had died out and now only remains in Taiwan. He ended up having to teach the Chinese from the beginning—so in essence he has taken this once Chinese art form back to the Mainland.

Lee Tien-lu, when alive, worked toward teaching the art to insure that it is handed down for future generations. He performed as far away as Germany and the US. His apprentices have even set up their own troupes in countries such as Australia, France, Japan, and the US. Before Lee the art had almost vanished, but through his efforts the art was revised.

Mr. Chen is the first to take these puppets to the public via commercial means. Faced with the prospect of his art disappearing, designer Chen realized that only through turning the art into a commercial venture could it survive for future generations.

“This way it gets in contact with the greater audience,” says Mr. Chen.

Some troupes are now using modern techniques with old to revamp the appearance and enhance the performance to draw in a new generation of crowds. After all, how is budaixi to compete with PlayStation and Nintendo?

Through the efforts of a few intrepid artists, this part of Taiwan’s past will also be a part of its future. Maybe you too can help this beautiful part of Taiwan’s heritage achieve a bright future?

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