Located in central Taiwan, Yunlin county’s Yunlin Glove Puppet Museum is a place that every art lover must visit to gain a detailed understanding of ‘glove puppetry’ in Taiwan.
The art of glove puppetry or budaisi, as it is called in Chinese, has a special place in Taiwan’s history which dates back to as early as the 17th century.
It used to be one of Taiwan’s primary forms of entertainment till the late 19th century. The form soon fell out of favour but is now enjoying a renaissance with new trappings and new mediums which are spreading it far and wide.
Honouring the history, Yunlin’s Puppet Museum now hosts the most well-known characters of Huang Hai-dai, a famous exemplar of this popular art form.
The museum is located in Hai-dai’s hometown Huwei, and the building itself is historically significant as it is over 80 years old.
The building was converted from a police station and thus still retains its original internal layout, which has many old rooms, including jail cells.
The building was built in 1930 and even served as Huwei District Office till the World War 2. After the Japanese Colonial Period ended and the administrative regions of Huwei were redrawn, the building was converted into a Police Station.
Decades later in 1989, the police station was moved to a new site and the building fell into disuse.
It would have been a sad end for the historic building had the Huwei Township not hosted 1977’s National Festival of Culture and Arts here and shone a spotlight on the important elements of the area’s history.
As a result of the 1977 initiative, people started to re-assess the historical value of the former Huwei District Office and preserve the area for the museum.
The museum is now managed by the Yunlin County Culture Foundation and houses a permanent exhibition of hand puppets.
It also holds courses on painting and performance with hand puppets to pass on the knowledge to discerning and inquisitive learners.
All photos by: Anuradha Singh