Dao Phuc water puppet village – 300 years of preserving artistic quintessence

Enduring vicissitudes, Dao Thuc water puppet villagers have safeguarded the ancient water puppetry as a cherished heritage for over 300 years, becoming one of the oldest Vietnamese’ traditional craft villages.

Hanoi boasts a rich cultural history, home to centuries-old craft villages specializing in silk, pottery, and incense. Yet, on the outskirts lies Dao Phuc water puppet village, a lesser-known gem working tirelessly to revive its endangered ancestral craft. Discover this unique village with Travel Sense Asia, where puppet-making and water puppetry come to life.

  1. Where is Dao Phuc water puppet village located?

The water puppet village of Dao Thuc is situated within the precincts of Thuy Lam commune, Dong Anh district, Hanoi. Positioned approximately 25 kilometers from the heart of Hanoi, it rests beyond the embankment of the Ca Lo River.

  1. The history of Dao Phuc water puppet village

Dao Thuc Village gained renown for its 300-year-old water puppetry, attributed to its founder, Mr. Dao Dang Khiem (born Nguyen Dang Vinh). Nguyen held a distinguished position as a high-ranking official during the reign of Vietnamese Emperor Le Hy Tong (1735-1740). Serving as a mandarin afforded him exposure to diverse forms of puppetry presented by troupes across the nation.

Upon concluding his tenure as a mandarin, Vinh developed a profound affinity for water puppetry, dedicating himself tirelessly to imparting this art to subsequent generations. His commitment led him back to Dao Thuc, where he assumed the role of an instructor, diligently passing on the intricate techniques of water puppetry to the villagers. This invaluable cultural heritage has been meticulously preserved by the villagers and endures to the present day.

In recognition of his merits, a stone stele paying tribute to him was erected in 1735. Each year, on the 24th day of the 2nd lunar month, in commemoration of Nguyen Dang Vinh’s death anniversary, local residents partake in a ritual of lighting incense to honor him as the progenitor of Dao Thuc water puppetry.

On March 12th 2023, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism of Vietnam formally documented the inclusion of Dao Thuc water puppetry as a national intangible cultural heritage. This recognition stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication to preserve the traditional craft by the community of Dao Thuc villagers.

  1. The art of Dao Thuc water puppetry

The key to Dao Thuc water puppetry lies in the buoyant fig wood material and lacquer painting of the puppets, meticulously crafted by the villagers. These puppets, measuring 30-40 cm in height, possess the unique ability to move in various directions, allowing for remarkably flexible motions unlike ones made by other craft villages.

 

The Dao Thuc water puppet village stands out not only for its artistic prowess but also for the resilience of its performers. They skillfully utilize the water’s movement to infuse drama, perfect illusions, and narrate compelling stories. These individuals, often simple farmers or craftsmen, demonstrate exceptional dexterity in controlling the puppets while enduring the cold waters. The manipulation of the puppet’s arms, achieved with bamboo sticks and strings, reflects the puppeteers’ decades-long journey to mastery.

 

Beyond the physical demands, Dao Thuc water puppetry serves as a cultural beacon, preserving and conveying the nation’s values, beliefs, and history. Each puppet represents a renowned character from Vietnamese folktales, with Chu Teu serving as a comedic host essential to the performances. Chu Teu, the storyteller, will guide you through diverse scenes depicting daily life in northern Vietnamese villages—activities like duck herding, fishing, rice planting, boat rowing, and royal parades. Some shows even incorporate moral-laden Vietnamese folktales, adding depth to the cultural tapestry woven by this ancient art form.

Hanoi boasts a rich cultural history, home to centuries-old craft villages specializing in silk, pottery, and incense. Yet, on the outskirts lies Dao Phuc water puppet village, a lesser-known gem working tirelessly to revive its endangered ancestral craft. Discover this unique village with Travel Sense Asia, where puppet-making and water puppetry come to life.
  1. Exciting experiences for you at Dao Thuc water puppet village

Watching water puppet shows

Exploring Vietnamese culture and traditions can be effectively achieved through the medium of water puppetry. The puppetry performances at Dao Thuc village boasts a repertoire comprising over 20 engaging stories. In addition to its classical renditions, Dao Thuc water puppet shows even showcase inventive productions that delve into significant episodes from Vietnamese history, exemplified by the 12 days and nights recounting the victory of Dien Bien Phu. Through these performances, you can gain a nuanced appreciation for the indomitable spirit and unwavering determination of the Vietnamese people.

Talking with the water puppeteers

Throughout the entire water puppet show, you are confined to observing solely the puppets and a folk orchestra performing live renditions. A curious observation arises as you encounter a split-bamboo curtain positioned centrally within the puppet show pond, decorated to mimic a temple facade. Unbeknownst to the audience, concealed behind this cover are the puppeteers, diligently immersed in a waist-deep pool for extended periods. Engage in conversation with the artists and lend an ear as they divulge the intricacies of the demanding backstage efforts required to craft such captivating puppetry performances.

Learning how to make a water puppet and perform the puppetry

Upon arriving at Dao Thuc village, you shall have the privilege of observing the intricate process involved in crafting an exquisite water puppet. Simultaneously, skilled artisans will provide you the guidance in adorning a puppet of one’s own. Furthermore, you can directly immerse yourself in the water along with the puppeteers, receiving instruction on the art of puppet manipulation upon the water’s surface. Only through firsthand participation can you truly appreciate the ingenuity and artistry possessed by water puppetry maestros.

Participating in the annual festivals of Dao Thuc water puppet village 

Annually, Dao Thuc village orchestrates three primary festivals: the village’s New Year celebration on January 10 of the Lunar New Year, the commemoration of the craft’s founder Nguyen Dang Vinh on February 24 of the Lunar New Year, and the village festival on November 13 of the Lunar New Year. Resonating with the vibrant tradition of Vietnamese festivals, the Dao Thuc water puppet village festival exudes liveliness through its distinctive water puppet performances. If you are fortunate enough to visit during these festivities, you can fully immerse themselves in the jubilant atmosphere, creating indelible memories with the local community.

 

Buying exquisite puppets from the souvenir shop

Within Dao Thuc water puppet village, stalls offering meticulously crafted handmade souvenirs abound. Notably, wooden puppets are among the distinctive items available. Bringing home a carefully crafted water puppet from Vietnam can serve as a unique and cherished gift for your loved ones. Furthermore, right at this souvenir shop, the village usually hosts musical performances featuring captivating folk songs and traditional love songs performed by the talented Dao Thuc villagers.

Should you find yourself in Dao Thuc Village, do consider engaging in the captivating water puppetry performances offered here. Renowned not just for its carpentry, this locale draws in visitors from both domestic and international spheres due to its distinctive folk water puppetry culture. With 15 years of local knowledge, Travel Sense Asia serves as your reliable travel agent in discovering the finest aspects of Hanoi, be it a renowned cultural hotspot or a concealed treasure of tradition. Explore our thoughtfully curated tours or interact with our travel consultants to tailor your own extraordinary journey through the rich heritage of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Listen to our podcast

Put on your headphones, tune in, and get ready to be drawn into our enchanted world of travel.

Recommended experience for you

  • Enjoy the romantic vibe of Vientiane capital
  • Kayak through islets amid Nam Ngum Lake
  • Explore otherworldly caves in Vang Vieng
  • Visit the elephant sanctuary in Luang Prabang
  • Visit the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang
  • Swim in the turquoise Kuang Si Waterfall
  • Explore otherworldly caves in Vang Vieng
  • Cruise through islets amid Nam Ngum Lake
  • Hike through rice terraces in Pu Luong
  • Enjoy a scenic boat ride in Ninh Binh
  • Experience Mekong Delta’s riverside life
  • Relax on the beach of Phu Quoc Island
  • Uncover Hanoi’s street culture on a cylco
  • Cruise overnight in Lan Ha Bay
  • Visit UNESCO heritage sites in Hue and Hoi An
  • Experience Mekong Delta’s riverside life
Contact us
Call Hotline
Chat Whatsapp
Design Your Tour
Chat Whatsapp