Thang Long Water Puppet Theater in Hanoi

Water puppetry (Vietnamese: Múa rối nước, lit. “puppets that dance on water”) is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century CE when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam.

Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.[1] The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.


Located at 57B, Dinh Tien Hoang street, nearby Hoan Kiem Lake, Thang Long Water Puppet Theater is a familiar address for both domestic tourists and foreign ones, who want to enjoy water puppet shows and discovery the beauty of this unique Vietnam traditional art.

Puppet Water Show

The formation and development of Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

In 1969, the theater was established and since 1990; many water puppet shows have been performed by Thang Long theater artists.Since being established, our main task is to serve domestic audiences and tourist with “165 performing days”. Besides, Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre has introduced this traditional art of Vietnam to other countries and attended International Art Festivals in Asia, Europe, Australia, Latin America. Vietnamese water puppetry shows are warmly welcomed and highly appreciated wherever they are staged. The famous Thang Long Water Puppetry Theatre has been performing in many countries:

+1999: Sydney (Australia), Athens (Greek).

+1998: Spain, Portugal, Iran, France, Italy, Philippines.

+1997: Italy, Mexico, France, America, Belgium.

+1996: Spain, Brazil, America, France.

+1995: Denmark, America, Spain, Portugal, Japan.

+1994: Australia, Spain, France, Switzerland, Korea.

+1993: Hongkong, Japan.

+1992: Japan, France, Thailand.


Traditional content of water puppet performance like daily life of Vietnamese farmers (cultivating, tending buffalo, catching fishes…), communal entertainment (swimming contest, dragon dancing…), or historical legends (Le Loi returns precious sword…), with modest performance way have appealed audiences for centuries. However, the artists of Thang Long Water Puppet Theater want to renew the old puppet shows with effect of light, music and combination between people and puppets.

Le Loi King

It sounds risky, but the theater has been successful since the beginning the beginning and received favors and praises from audiences. To enjoy some typical water puppet performances, you can take a look at the video below.

Certainly, it will be much great if tourists can directly watch these shows in Thang Long Water Puppets Theater after enjoying a cup of coffee in the coffee lounge which is right in front of the theater, and giving a nice view to Hoan Kiem Lake.

Features of Thang Long Water Puppet Theater in Hanoi:

–   This unique art form has a stage made of rice paddy, river or pond.
–   The marionettes are moved skillfully across the water’s surface with the help of underwater poles, rods and strings. Two or more people are required for heavy and complex puppets.
–   The puppets dance, dive, glide and swim across the stage along with traditional Vietnamese music being played befitting the mood of the play.
–   Bamboo flutes, Bronze drums, gongs, xylophones sets the stage for the play.
–   Ducks, snakes, dragons and monkey puppets dance, dive and swim under the surface of the water. The audience is transported to a world of fishermen and villagers, of knights and beautiful princesses, of water buffalo, fish, frogs, unicorns, lions and magic turtles.
–   The audience experiences this amazing spectacle on a raft, pagoda and some other floating structure.
–   Some of the most fascinating performances include Dance of the Dragons, Triumphant Return, Legend of the Restored Sword and Dance of the Fairies.
–   The most captivating of the rural life scenes depict Catching Frogs, Fox Stealing Ducks and On a Buffalo with a Flute.

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Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre in Hanoi

The orchestra accompanies the performance with traditional music and song

Dance of the water fairies

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Water puppet, representing one of the stages of the Buddhist ‘ox herder’ parable.

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