Shadow Theater is performed in many nations in Asia and the near east. Though debate exists over the origin of shadow puppetry, historians agree that the art form appeared in India and China around 400 B.C.E. and then spread to Indonesia, Korea, Vietnam and Turkey.
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Indian Shadow Theater
Indian shadow plays evolved as a way to tell the stories of the Ramayana. The Ramayana is one of the earliest of the Hindu epics.
Pi Ying, Chinese shadow theatre, became popular around 250 B.C.E. and continues today as a well-liked form of entertainment. Pi Ying gained popularity with royal ladies because women weren't allowed to watch plays at that time.
Javanese Wayang, Indonesian shadow plays, comes in three distinct forms determined by the type of puppets used. These shadow plays depict the Hindu, Javanese Majapahit and Islamic Arabic adventure stories.
Turkish shadow plays developed in the 13th century. Karagoz is the name of the art form and the major character in the shadow stories.
Shadow puppets are made of leather that has been treated to make it translucent. The workmanship is intricate requiring the work of master craftsmen. Though not a widely seen art form today, shadow puppetry is being preserved as an important element of world history.
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