Called "marionette show" in ancient China, a puppet show is a theatre performance in which puppet figures are made to move by puppeteers pulling strings or by putting their hands inside them.
In China, the origin of puppets dates back to the Shang Dynasty, when the custom of burying slaves alive with their deceased masters was practiced. Of the 3,000 funeral objects excavated from the Yin Ruins in Anyang City, there are pottery figurines of slaves with cangues. In the Warring States Period, there appeared entertaining figurines used in story-telling and singing performances as props. And such art forms became popular. After the Han Dynasty, a puppet show gradually developed into a folk art combining opera, literature, sculpture and painting that appealed to both humans and divinities.
During the Three Kingdoms Period, there were "water-driven one hundred play" featuring exquisitely-made puppets performing humanlike singing, dancing and acrobatics. In the Song Dynasty, puppet shows enjoyed an unprecedented boom, with a wide variety of puppet types used in the plays, including string puppets, rod puppets, water puppets, pyrotechnic puppets, iron stick puppets, glove puppets and flesh puppets etc.
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, puppet plays caught on in all areas. By integrating with local operas, various kinds of regional puppet plays came into being, such as Heyang string puppet play of Shaanxi and Zhangzhou glove puppet play of Fujian. Puppet shows also advanced with the times. After the movie came into being, they found their way into the movie field, creating increasing impact of puppet shows.
In former times, a puppet show was one of the most popular entertaining art forms among ordinary people. Such shows were usually staged on occasions like sacrificial rituals and festive banquets, adding color to people's life. In modern times, however, puppet shows suffered decline due to war chaos. But they caught on again shortly after the war.