Vietnamese Water Puppets

Water puppet performances are a Vietnamese tradition that were originally performed in the rice paddies. We decided to take in a performance at the Than Long theatre in Hanoi.

Most of the scenes were traditional stories like “Fishing” with a humorous bent.


This scene showed the triumphant return of the University Graduate. Times have changed. I certainly wasn’t carried home in a procession.


I was curious to see what the scene titled, “Unicorns Play with Ball” would entail. Well, the unicorns didn’t have a horn and seemed to resemble dragons. That being said, they did play with a ball.


One of my favourite Vietnamese legends so far is the story of the sword of Lê Lợi. The legend says that the Emperor possessed a magical sword that helped him defeat the Chinese. When the war was over, the sword was returned to the Golden Turtle in a lake in Hanoi. That lake is now called ‘The Lake of the Returned Sword’ or Hoan Kiem Lake which is the heart of Hanoi.


To make all this happen the puppeteers wade in the water and control the different puppets by levers.

The show, lasting about 45 minutes, was the perfect length of time to get a taste without getting bored.

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