The Magic of Asian Theatre Puppets - Beauties, Heroes, Villains, Gods and Clowns

  • Posted: Jul 4, 2017

An exhibition of more than 100 unique examples of Asian puppetry is currently on show at the Iziko South African National Gallery. The dramatic exhibition can be appreciated by young and old this winter school holiday!

The Magic of Asian Theatre Puppets features the most complete collection of Asian theatre puppets in the world. The vast collection comprises of unique puppets and related artefacts from most Asian traditions and countries including Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The collection was established by founder of the Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum, Dr Paul Lin.

First developed as a religious ritual, the earliest Asian puppets were usually stationary statues of gods and deities. Puppets were thought to have exorcized evil, healed disease, and bring peace and comfort, as they represented the deities who moved and talked through the puppeteers.

Puppet theatre was first performed in India and China more than 2,000 years ago. During its long history, puppet theatre developed in all Asian countries. It took the form of many diverse genres, such as marionettes, shadow puppets, glove puppets, rod puppets and water puppets. Puppets were made by highly skilled craftsmen, whose names are mostly lost. Asian puppet theatre is also music theatre, with the members of the orchestra always outnumbering the puppeteers.

These beauties, heroes, villains, gods and clowns have travelled the world, and are now in Cape Town to take visitors to this exhibition through a vast and fascinating continent.

The exhibition is on show until 31 July 2017.



Issued by
Kim Lindeboom                              
Communications Coordinator
TEL: 021 481 3874              CELL: 083 356 6043

On behalf of the Chief Executive Officer, Iziko Museums of South Africa


The Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum

Over the past 30 years, the collection of museum founder Dr. Paul Lin has developed into the most complete collection of Asian theatre puppets in the world, with over ten thousand artefacts. The museum is a centre for education, research, preservation and performance, with its own theatre and theatre company.

Curator: Dr. Robin Ruizendaal, Taipei

Project Manager: Hayden Proud, Cape Town


About Iziko Museums of South Africa (Iziko)

Iziko operates 11 national museums, the Planetarium, the Social History Centre and three collection‑specific libraries in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections that reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation that brings together these museums under a single governance and leadership structure. The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, (*excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium). Visit our webpage at, join our online community on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (@Iziko_Museums) for regular updates on events, news and new exhibitions. 

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