Vietnamese Water Puppets

Originating from the villages of the Red River Delta area of Northern Vietnam, water puppetry reflects a realistic look at the daily life of the Vietnamese citizen. Viewers are impressed by colorful and meaningful water puppetry performed in a waist – deep pool. Water puppetry has become the pinnacle of the Vietnamese traditional art in particular and the ancient Asian puppet as a whole. Let’s discover the story of Water Puppetry with


In the past

Historical and cultural rich water puppetry was developed by ancient Vietnamese ancestors and closely associated with rice farming in Northern Delta. Water puppetry used to be performed in the villages of the Red River Delta on special occasions.

Vietnamese water puppetry is is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition. The ‘buong tro’ better known as the puppeteers’ chamber symbolizes curved – roof communal house in the villages. Water puppetry describes the lives of Vietnamese farmers and the items are usually farming tools which are familiar to Vietnamese folks like fishing – tackle, hoof, palm – leaf conical hat, palm – leaf raincoat and so forth.


In the 21st century water puppetry has significantly developed by Vietnamese talented artists. The old water puppetry in the countryside has transformed into one of the most unique artistic traditions of Vietnam. The today performances of water puppetry become even more interesting thanks to musical bands and the uses of light and smoke. Water is also an important part of Vietnamese puppetry. Viewers find it interesting to view lovely ducks swimming joyfully in the water or beautiful fairies descending on earth in fanciful smoky scenery or the water boiling in the battle against dragons.

Besides, Vietnamese traditional music has become an indispensable part of Vietnamese water puppetry. Traditional Vietnamese orchestra provides musical accompaniment. Vietnamese artists usually play traditional musical instruments like vocals, drums, wooden bells, cymbals, horns, monochord, gongs, and bamboo flutes.

Multi – colored wooden water puppets are made by skillful and meticulous artisans – each of which represents a popular character. The puppets are carved out of the wood of the fig trees and each divided into two parts – a body and a base. The puppeteers stand behind a split-bamboo screen which is decorated to resemble a temple facade, and control the puppets using long bamboo rods and string mechanism hidden beneath the water surface. The show is introduced by a popular clown by the name of Teu.

A history of 300 years

Water puppetry can be traced back to many villages throughout Vietnam but it is thought to be originated from the midlands of Northern Vietnam. Out of the 14 water puppet groups remaining until now, Dao Thuc Water Puppet Group in Dong Anh, Hanoi is famous for its long historical and cultural rich traditions which have been preserved for nearly 300 years.


Despite hardships in today’s life, more than twenty artists of Dao Thuc Water Puppet Group have been dedicated their whole life to the cause of water puppetry. Artists make lifeless puppets become lively and lovely. Viewers are interested in famous pieces including “Ba khi giao tro”, “ Len vong xuong nuoc”, “Trau chui ong” and “Phung danh ho” and so forth.

Talented artists of Dao Thuc Water Puppet Group have brought a breath of fresh air into Vietnamese traditional water puppetry through new pieces for stage including “Tang hoa ngay hoi” (Flower – giving in festival), “Ruoc anh bac Ho” (Bringing the picture of President Ho), “Hanoi 12 ngay dem” (Hanoi 12 days and nights). More interestingly, Vietnamese water puppetry has been introduced by Dao Thuc Group to viewers of all nationalities all over the world. Dao Thuc Group has also won a lot of awards at national cultural festivals. Every year, on the occasion of New Year, Dao Thuc Village holds special water puppetry performances to remind the younger generations of their responsibilities for preserving and promoting the essence of the national art.

Water puppetry represents scared traditions of the ancient Vietnamese and symbolizes simply beautifull dreams of Vietnamese farmers. Vietnamese water puppetry is called by foreign audiences as “the soul of the Vietnamese rice fields”. Thanks to water puppetry, international friends can understand more about the daily life and the traditional cultural values of the Vietnamese folks.