China. I think it is not unusual for Americans to have complex, often contradictory, associations with the name—from fine teacups to Jackie Chan, from the sayings of Confucius to Quotations from Chairman Mao, from the invasion of Tibet to the Cultural Revolution, from SARS to Peking Opera. It has been said that the world is currently going through the sixth great extinction; Puppetry scholars are concerned that, in China, traditional puppet companies are also going extinct at an alarming rate. This is happening, in part at least, to the largest migration in human history as hundreds of millions there move from the countryside to cities. Small, traditional theaters are losing their audiences. Perhaps some of them will be saved by a hoped-for wave of preservation zeal. New companies will surely spring up in the quickly expanding urban centers, but the puppetry landscape there is inexorably changing.
This issue is full of articles about puppetry in China, as well as puppetry that has moved out of China to other parts of the world. We are fortunate here to have had such Chinese immigrant artists as hand puppeteer Yang Feng, rod puppeteer Hua Hua Zhang and singer/dancer/puppeteer Kuang-Yu Fong add their artistry to our cultural buffet, and then collabore with other artists here, helping American puppetry evolve. In this issue, we can, at best, scratch the surface of China—a country in which puppetry stretches back some 2,000 years, but we have some stories to share that we hope will at least pique your interest in this amazing, enormous, multi-ethnic culture, and the puppetry that has evolved there.
Josh Stenberg, from Nanjing University, describes a Quanzhou Marionette production of The Orphan of Zhao, an ancient text that has seen many modern ad- aptations, while Annie Rollins is on a mission to help preserve some of the more endan- gered shadow traditions in "The Last Masters." Fan Pen Chen writes about ritual puppetry, but has also translated a two-part article by Professor Ye on traditional puppet theatres in China and Claire Dolan remembers a workshop production she led in Shanghai for Bread and Puppet Theater. Political theater of the sort proposed in the workshop was entirely foreign to the college students participating, but as other members of the community got involved, something truly magical happened. And that is the amazing thing about puppetry in China or anywhere else. Whether it is in the delicate movements of a marionette, or performing a 13th century script that still speaks to us today, or in parade figures made from used cardboard boxes to address the conundrum of rampant urban renewal: In the stirring together of puppeteer, puppet and audience, something new and unexpected is created.