The Chinese puppetry comes in three forms:the marionette theater, the shadow theater, and the glove theater. Of the three, marionette theater has the longest history and has spread the farthest. As early as the Sung dynasty in the tenth century A.D., the marionette theater and shadow puppet theater were already highly developed. In fact, other types of Chinese theater had yet to develop. Subsequently, puppetry had an important impact on the development of other types Chinese theater. Puppetry in China has been considered a performing art of immense appeal rather than a casual amusement or child"s game.
String marionettes are the oldest and most common marionette puppet. Marionette shows are performed to drive evil spirits away or thank the gods. Traditionally, marionette performances are presented on the birthday of the Jade Emperor and that of the Three Great Emperors. Marionette presentations are also featured at the first birthday of a baby and the birthday of an elderly person. Marionette puppet shows are often regarded as a rite in reverence of the gods.
Shadow puppetry is based on the penetration of light through a translucent screen or sheet of cloth; the shadows seen by the audience are silhouettes. Traditionally, the 8-12 inch puppets, scenery, and props such as furniture, pagodas, halls, and plants are made from leather.
Historical Chinese novels are usually adapted for glove puppet shows. Glove puppets also known as bag puppets are the most popular theatrical form in Taiwan. Taiwan glove puppeteers can make their puppets perform martial arts tactics, somersaults, and other special movements.