Based in Xi'an, the "cradle of Chinese culture" that was the capital of the Tang dynasty, the Shaanxi Folk Art Theater is China's only professional province-based traditional and shadow puppet performance group. Founded in 1953, company members include many performers recognized by the Ministry of Culture as masters in their art. The company also operates departments in directing, scriptwriting, music composition, and set design. In total, the Shaanxi Folk Art Theater comprises more than 100 company members, including the nation's leading experts in puppet making.
The Shaanxi Folk Art Theater's repertoire is wide ranging. In the past four decades, it has generated more than 100 works, and many of them have been presented around the nation. The Shaanxi Folk Art Theater Youth Group won a national award for its artistic progressiveness in 1983, while the theater itself received accolades in 1999 for its creative efforts in promoting Chinese culture.
The company is most famous for its ancient shadow puppetry techniques that bring classic Chinese tales to life, including numerous dramatic episodes from Journey to the West . These stories depict the Monkey King and his many adventures, with elaborate fights against devils and demons involving magical acts. Other works created by the Shaanxi Folk Art Theater include folk tales depicting animals such as mice, cats, roosters, and birds. The colors of the puppets, entrancing music, and liveliness of the stage presentations have delighted audiences young and old, whether they are familiar or new to the various popular folktales.
Among the company's master artists are Dong Xiaoyi and Li Junyi, who have helped nurture younger talents in the field. Dong and Li are also credited in building up professional puppet theaters in cities and towns around the country.
The Shaanxi Folk Art Theater has toured East and Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. The company makes its U.S. debut at the Kennedy Center this October.