Chiu Feng-jung: the driving force behind Hakka puppet theater

Chinese name
Born: 1971 
Birthplace: Pingtung County (Southern Taiwan)

Chiu Feng-jung is a talented Hakka artist in the puppet theater industry. Since he first came in contact with puppet shows in 1996, he has brought Hakka traditional culture into puppet shows. He is committed to passing on Hakka language and culture to younger generations through puppet theaters.

Chiu has been fond of traditional things since he was a child. By chance, a friend of his bought him a puppet and he fell in love with it. Therefore, he went to find a teacher to teach him about puppet shows. After graduating from Fu Jen Catholic University’s Mass Communications Department, he initially worked as the director of a documentary film. Later, he joined Hsiao Hsi Yuan Puppet Theater (小西園掌中劇團) and learned from the head of the puppet troupe.  He became more and more fond of promoting puppet shows, and thus switched to promoting traditional arts.

He said that the traditional Hakka people liked to watch big dramas, sing folk songs, and preferred quiet, expressive, and slow-paced dramas. Therefore, when the Hakka puppet show was first launched, there were many difficulties. But Chiu still insisted on bringing Hakka culture into the puppet shows. He felt this was his responsibility being a Hakka descent. And since he spoke the Hakka language, he felt he could more easily figure out how to develop Hakka puppet shows that would appeal to audiences.

© Playpuppet Theatre

In 2006, Chiu established his own troupe called Playpuppet Theatre (戲偶子劇團), which is a homonym for "small child" in the Hakka dialect. The troupe is also the only Hakka puppet theatre group in Taiwan that specializes in performances geared toward children and parents. The troupe is dedicated to creating a new style of puppet show and presenting shows that are suitable for parent-child viewing through incorporating multiple storytelling methods into the performances.

In addition to having the delicate skills of maneuvering puppets, the performers are also storytellers, with the performer and the puppet sharing the same stage to converse with the audience. The performances include traditional puppet shows, golden light puppet shows, western puppet shows, cartoon puppets and marionettes.

© Playpuppet Theatre

The troupe not only presents stories with Taiwanese folk characteristics, but also injects new life into traditional puppet shows, creating more fairy tale and fantasy story scripts suitable for modern children. At the same time, Chiu also blends classical, modern and Hakka flavors into the plays, and includes cartoons and movies that are popular among the youth to make the content more abundant.

Chiu attaches importance to the interaction with the audience, and adjusts the proportion of the performance dialogue that is said in the Hakka dialect, according to the composition of the audience, and appropriately conveys the Hakka language and Hakka culture to the audience.

In the future, Chiu plans to have performances in relatively remote Hakka villages and townships. He also hopes that he will see different cultures by visiting more Hakka villages, so that he can get more material and inspiration for his puppet shows. He hopes to continue to help make Hakka puppet theater shine.