Thursday, January 27, 2011

Glove puppets and prison cells

Last week I took my son, a fan of Taiwanese glove puppetry, to Huwei in Yunlin County, home of Taiwan's best-known puppetry troupe, PiLi International Multimedia. The company's name reflects its high-tech approach to the art form; their TV shows (clips here and here) are spectacles full of acrobatic sword-wielding puppets, dry ice, pyrotechnics and sound effects. The photo above is from an exhibition in Kaohsiung a few years back.

In a renovated government building in the centre of Huwei, PiLi has set up a museum. There's very little English but the scores of puppets on display are still worth seeing. (An even better collection of puppets can be seen here). During the Japanese colonial era, the building had multiple functions, one room being divided into three jail cells. Yunlin Glove Puppetry Museum (雲林布袋戲館) is at 498 Linsen Rd Sec 1 (虎尾鎮林森路一段498號); tel 05 636 4826; open Tue-Sun 10.00-18.00.
The town of Huwei owes its growth to Taiwan's sugar industry. According to this article, Huwei's sugar refinery is one of just two on the island that still operate; at the time of our visit, it was belching steam.

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