Puppet Origin Stories: Sun Wu Kong

by fingerplayers

In 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we spoke to the Makers and Designers of the puppets we have in The Finger Players (TFP), to create the repository that is the Puppet Origin Stories – a humble effort to highlight the background, and the making and design history of these puppets. We hope that this can be a continued endeavour at TFP, and we hope that you can go on this journey with us.

This traditional Chinese hand puppet was made in the late 1990s, when The Finger Players was operating from the premises of The Theatre Practice at Stamford Arts Centre.

It was made a little bigger than the typical size of a traditional Chinese hand puppet, with a sturdy head carved from wood, and a bigger glove body. This size gave room for manipulation by bigger hands, and for multiple weapons to be wielded by the legendary Monkey King.

Sun Wu Kong wielding his weapon

The puppet was carved by Master Junxiang, who was the youngest in a lineage of master carvers back in Quan Zhou, China. He was introduced to The Finger Players by Master Li Bo Fen*. Master Junxiang had initially wanted to be an opera performer. However, he found that his voice was unsuitable for operatic performance after going through puberty. Not giving up his love for the arts, he eventually went into the carving profession, and majored in this craft in the Quan Zhou Arts School.

This puppet along with others, were brought over in 1996 for the performance of Treasures from The Dragon Palace. Master Junxiang was responsible for producing the carved puppet’s head and limbs. Following which, Master Li Bo Fen and the rest of the company made up of Tan Beng Tian, Ong Kian Sin, Benjamin Ho and Lee Wai Ying at that time, stitched the parts together to form a fully functional puppet. Master Li Bo Fen then designed the various costumes for the specific characters, as well as the gadgets required to boost the imagery of the performance.

Production photo from Treasures from The Dragon Palace

*Master Li Bo Fen is the fourth generation master of the Jinjiang “Jin Yong Cheng” Puppetry Troupe. To find out more about Master Li Bo Fen, click here.

Championed by:

Kieran Tay

Champion this puppet and its story today by making a donation HERE.

In 2020, The Finger Players collaborated with Youth Infinity to reimagine selected stories from TFP’s Puppet Origin Stories. These youths were invited to write a creative response to a story, which TFP responded to through a short film. As in-person programmes were cancelled during the Circuit Breaker, TFP sought to engage with communities in a different way. We hope these short films serve as a reminder of this meaningful collaboration.

Based on the origin story of Sun Wu Kong, this is a literary response by RW, 16, from Youth Infinity (a service by AMKFSC Community Services)