Dutch man revives Taiwanese puppets
Robin Ruizendaal, a Dutchman, is the unlikely Director of the Lin Liu-hsin Puppet Theatre Museum*.
The Mandarin speaking, betel nut chewing Dutchman is a genuine doctor of puppetry, whose graduate thesis focused on Chinese marionette theatre.
Opened in 2000 with the generous support of several private donors, the museum is located in Taipei’s historic Da Daocheng neighbourhood, where puppet troupes once thrived, and is housed in a well preserved 4-story manor house built in 1946.
Today, the museum boasts a collection of some 7,000 puppetry artifacts from across Asia and is home to an internationally renowned troupe of theatrical puppeteers.
"The troupe features Taiwanese puppet master Chen Xi-huang (陳錫煌), son of legendary puppeteer Li Tien-lu (李天祿), Chen’s protege, Massimo Godoli Peli of Italy, and a crew of narrators, light and stage designers, and a puppet maker."
In a recent interview with the Taipei Times, Ruizendaal lamented local indifference to this aspect of Taiwan’s rich cultural heritage.
"…not unlike other Asian countries heavily influenced by Western pop culture, Taiwan is facing a lack of interest among young people in traditional puppetry."
“There are people coming from France and Spain to study Taiwanese puppetry at our museum, but local youth think it’s more sexy to become film makers, video artists or disc jockeys,” he said. “It seems crazy to them to study the obsolete puppetry. There is a crisis to pass on the craft if nobody wants to learn it.”
"Ruizendaal hopes the puppet museum can attract new blood by offering free puppeteer apprenticeships."
*The museum was previously known as Toa-Thiun-Thian Puppet Centre
Department of Information, Taipei City Government. (2001). Taipei’s Museums: The Doors are Open.
Taipei Times report: Dutch man attempting to revive a dying art