DRAGON ART STUDIO
Chinese Rod Puppetry
Chinese puppetry has more than a thousand years of history. It began as a cultural ritual, and later became a form of entertainment to the royal family and common public. It is a tradition of dramatic and acrobatic staging of folktales, legends, and opera, combining artistic expression with detailed hand craft, traditional Chinese Opera movements and music, beautifully-engineered mechanical puppet parts and western technology.
Yuqin Wang, born in Beijing, China, began musical training at the age of ten at the Beijing Opera School, following in the footsteps of her father's career as an operatic singer. In 1964, however, the director of the Puppet Art Troupe of China, the first national puppetry group in China, saw Wang perform and asked her to join his troupe. For over 31 years Wang performed with the troupe, traveling internationally with them, performing lead roles in over 30 puppet shows, as well as in movies and television programs.
While in the troupe, she met and married Zhengli Xu (also known as "Rocky"), a master puppet maker and Chinese rod puppeteer. Graduating from Beijing Puppetry Art School with a major in show production and direction, he spent years traveling to villages to learn from the old masters the art of puppet making. He has performed in and directed numerous shows and was the stage director for six different puppet shows. Xu designs and creates all the puppets, sets, staging and props, and selects the traditional Chinese music for the performances.
In 1996 Xu and Wang moved to Portland, Oregon, and with their daughter, Brenda, formed what is now known as Dragon Art Studio, the only professional Chinese puppet theater in the United States. The trio has performed at the Atlanta Olympic Games and at the National Folk Festival in East Lansing. In addition, they share their tradition at numerous school residencies and continue to teach in the Oregon Folklife Apprenticeship Program.
In 2004, Yuqin Wang and Zhengli Xu were honored by the National Endowment for the Arts with a National Heritage Fellowship Award, the highest honor this nation gives to folk and traditional artists.