The land-puppetry of Tay is also called rod puppetry. Each puppet is about 30-35 cm long and is made of Thung muc wood which is not very hard material; therefore it is easier for the artisans to carve puppets in various shapes and sizes. The head consisting of hair, ears and hats and the body of a puppet are carved together. Wooden hands are connected with wrists. Legs are carved separately and will be attached to the whole bodies.
A set of puppet usually includes 33 characters. The characters range from historical characters, such as kings and mandarins; farmers doing daily activities, such as climbing tree, husking rich etc.; and animals, such as buffalos, dragons, cranes, horses, etc.
The most outstanding feature of Tay people’s puppetry is the technique used to manipulate the puppets. On the stage, they use bamboo rods attached to the back, body and hands of these puppets. Normally, the Tay Troupe includes 12 members, six of them manipulate the puppets, four people play music, an MC and one helps to prepare puppets. The stage for puppet performance is very simple. It may be a lawn or a mound in the middle of the field.
|A puppet performance|
Ma Quang Mai is the head of the Tay Puppet Troupe in Tham Roc Village. “The Ma Quang family has about ten generations that do things related to the rod puppetry art. Our ancestor had learnt the puppet manipulation techniques at Tuyen Quang Province and then taught them to his descendants,” said the 80 year-old man. After a few decades of hiatus, in 1998, Ma Quang Chong, the son of Ma Quang Mai decided to revive activities of the family’s puppet troupe. First, he asked people to translate his ancestors' books into Vietnamese and then started creating puppets in the traditional ways. He also attended puppet workshops in Hanoi to learn the craft of making puppets. After nearly ten years researching, he succeeded to create many puppets which look more human and easier to manipulate. Thanks to his great efforts, there are more and more people learning about Tay’s puppetry. Ma Quang’s Tay Puppet Troupe has performed across Vietnam and even participated in the international puppetry festival in Hanoi.
Today for Ma Quang Chong, performing is not the only priority. Instead, this man spends more time teaching the children in the village how to make and manipulate the puppets, hoping that this traditional art will live and develop in many more generations.