Sat, Oct 02, 2010 - Page 2 News List

INTERVIEW: Pili mourns loss of valuable puppets to fire

ART TREASURES:The general manager of Pili Multimedia said that the original puppet prototypes of two main characters perished in Thursday’s fire

By Lin Kuo-hsien and Chao Ching  /  Staff Reporters

E Yeh-shu, left, Su Huan-chen, center, and Yeh Hsiao-chai, the three main characters in Pili International Multimedia’s traditional Taiwanese puppet theater, or budaixi, are pictured in Yunlin County on Thursday.

PHOTO: LIN KUO-HSIEN, TAIPEI TIMES

Compunction and grief written all over his face, Chris Huang (黃文擇) talked about the large fire that hit Pili International Multimedia’s studio on Thursday, in which more than 2,000 puppets used in the performance and filming of Taiwanese traditional puppet theater, known as budaixi (布袋戲), perished.

Among those destroyed in the fire were the original prototypes for Su Huan-chen (素還真) and I Yeh-shu (一頁書), two of the main characters in a well-known Pili budaixi (霹靂布袋戲) series: Su is known for his wisdom and martial arts skills, while I Yeh-shu is his loyal and trustworthy friend.

“Money can easily replace most of the losses, the sets and the electric equipment that were destroyed in the fire, but those precious original puppet prototypes such as Su Huan-chen cannot be replaced,” Huang, the general manager of Pili International Multimedia, said in an interview on Thursday. “They represent a form of cultural loss.”

Huang comes from the nation’s most prominent hand puppet theater family, whose members — including his late grandfather, Huang Hai-tai (黃海岱), and his father, Huang Chun-hsiung (黃俊雄) — have continued to find new ways to develop and improve on the traditional artistry of performing with wooden puppets.

Chris Huang, together with his brother, Vincent Huang (黃強華), later took up the family trade with a younger generation’s vision and passion, forming Pili Multimedia and propelling the company into the modern era by adopting Hollywood production techniques, as well as computer animated special effects and digital sound effects, taking the traditional artform to a whole new level.

For more than a decade, Vincent Huang wrote scripts for the plays, while Chris Huang took responsibility for voice dubbing.

Pili’s television channel has a record of more than 3.5 million viewers and helped Taiwanese puppet theater go international when one of its shows aired on the Disney Channel in the US.

“Budaixi represents a form of Taiwanese cultural heritage, and that it is the most important form of traditional art in Yunlin County,” Chris Huang said.

Deeply attached to the puppets, he said some of the older puppets were placed in a storehouse with 24-hour air conditioning to regulate the temperature and help preserve them.

“I still cannot believe that the puppets have been lost in a fire,” he said.

Chris Huang said it was impossible to estimate the losses in monetary terms, adding that there was no way to restore the cultural damage from the loss of 500 original handmade puppets.

“I just hope that this fire has drawn the public’s attention to the traditional art of budaixi and that the government can work harder to promote and protect this ancient art,” he said.

Additional reporting by CNA

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