The Water Puppet Show of Vietnam dates back to the 11th Century, in the delta of the Red River in the North. The Vietnamese farmers from back then believed that spirits controlled all aspects of life, and to please the spirits (as well as to entertain themselves), they devised a method in which they used natural materials in flooded rice paddies to perform Water Puppetry.
It is performed in a pool of water chest-deep, with the water surface as the stage (the performers are hidden behind curtains). They used rods weighing up to 15kg to control the puppets. Performances are usually about day-to-day village life, including children's games, farming and buffalo-fighting, as well as legends and national history. A small orchestra usually accompanies them by playing live music.
There are currently four troupes in Hanoi.
When the performance started, the lights were dimmed, and two mythical creatures representing the ancestors of the Vietnamese people appeared and danced. An egg was born, and from it, 100 people were hatched. They formed the Vietnamese civilisation, and Vietnamese culture was born.
Throughout the performance, scenes of Vietnamese culture and traditions were presented, along with music from the orchestra. Tales were told of how boys played the pan-flute to tell their lovers of their heartfelt feelings, and how girls decorated fans to express their love to their lovers. An echo of Indian tradition was introduced, as well as a history of Vietnam and its ethnic groups, as puppets danced in the water.
At the end, live actors appeared from behind the curtains, giving a performance of their own, holding flowers and controlling puppets before the public.