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New vitality of Dao Thuc water puppetry    
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New vitality of Dao Thuc water puppetry
May 28 2018

More than ten years ago, Nguyen The Nghi at Thuy Lam commune, Dong Anh district, in Hanoi, began looking for ways to develop Dao Thuc water puppetry, such as promoting the art through tourism companies and social networks, and reorganising the operations of the puppetry troupes to serve tourists. He had a very successful business, but because of his love and sense of responsibility for his hometown, he decided to stick with the water puppetry.

Dao Thuc is the only traditional puppetry village in the city to serve tourists in a professional way. Whenever guests request, including groups of guests of only two or three, the guild still performs dozens of performances. The puppetry village is also a favorite picnic destination of many schools in Hanoi. At each performance, each artisan can receive a remuneration of VND 90,000.

The breakthrough of the Dao Thuc puppetry village began more than ten years ago. At that time many young people in the village had left the village to work elsewhere. Like the other young people, Nguyen The Nghi also worked and had a very successful business. However, after meeting with many people, he became more worried about the development of the puppet village, as each year Dao Thuc village had only a few shows.

In early 2000, Vietnam was welcoming more and more foreign tourists. Water puppetry is a Vietnamese cultural specialty, and Nghi thought of serving guests to increase the income for artisans. Nghi and a number of other young people proposed a number of ideas to the elderly artisans. At first, they faced many difficulties in introducing puppetry through travel companies, and building the puppetry as a local tourism product, but they were not discouraged.

Realising that the internet is a highly effective advertising tool, the troupe’s young members decided to take full advantage. They made a website and the site provides readers with information about Vietnamese water puppetry in general and Dao Thuc village’s puppetry in particular, as well as contact information for those who are interested in the art form. The young members have also promoted the image of their village through Facebook. These internet tools have helped popularise the village and have contributed to realising its long-term target: increased tourism. As a result, more and more tourists are visiting Dao to enjoy puppetry.

With his love and responsibility for water puppetry and his home town, Nghi decided to return to the village and chose to work in the field of life insurance, earning a living whilst also contributing to Dao Thuc village.

Due to an accident at an early age, Nguyen The Nghi's index finger is unable to move. The accident made him unable to become a skilled performer. However, along with the ability to organise business and foreign affairs, he has the ability to host programmes and perform cheo singing, making the event livelier. In 2016, Nguyen The Nghi was elected as head of the Dao Thuc water puppetry troupe. Nowadays, Dao Thuc is not only more professional in performing, but also in discovering tourism. At the village, tourists can experience numerous activities, such as visiting the manipulation room (space behind the shade in water puppetry), making puppets, and buying souvenirs of wood puppets and bamboo sculpture art.

Talking about his work, head of the Dao Thuc water puppetry troupe, Nguyen The Nghi said “previously, I never thought I would be responsible for the puppetry guild; I went out to do business and then returned home, just because I think, I was born and grew up in the village, so no matter how rich I am in life, I wanted to contribute something for my village.” - NDO