About The Book

Forgotten Heritage, Uncovering Singapore’s Traditional Chinese Puppets

This is the first book to document the diversity of Singapore’s traditional Chinese theatre. The emphasis is on “Forgotten Heritage” as this important theatrical practice has existed for over a century but remains little known to many Singaporeans.

This heritage includes both the tangible—puppets, playscripts and related paraphernalia, and intangible—knowledge and skills of puppeteers and musicians, which are fading away. This book not only serves as a storehouse of the puppet types belonging to the various regional (dialect) groups, its colourful and attractive design aims to attract more readers, especially the younger generation who may have never seen or experienced this rich tradition.

Authors: Caroline Chia & Jesvin Yeo
Design Team: Alvin Ng & Jesvin Yeo
Research and Visual Team: Caroline Chia, Jesvin Yeo, Alvin Ng and Jonathan Goh
Illustrator: Quek Tengwan

Dr Jesvin Yeo

Associate Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University

Jesvin Yeo is an enthusiast committed to the preservation of cultural heritage and traditional crafts related to singapore. She studies century-old buildings, cultural materials and works closely with traditional craftsmen to explore design innovations and sustainable social initiatives. She has shared her knowledge of Singapore’s traditional crafts and art forms globally and locally through international seminars and exhibitions in London, Berlin, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Venice and Cheongju. These works have also won prestigious design awards, such as the Red Dot Award, GOOD DESIGN™ Award and iF Communication. 

Dr Caroline Chia 

Research Fellow

Caroline Chia researches on traditional Chinese theatre and spent more than a decade of fieldwork studying opera and puppet theatre in her home country. Besides publishing extensively on the topic, she also organised various events, including workshops, talks and exhibitions related to puppetry to increase awareness of this forgotten heritage. 

Contact us at theforgottenheritage@outlook.com

This project would not be possible without the support of the Heritage Participation Grant, kindly awarded by the National Heritage Board and the Publication Grant by the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre. We also like to dedicate this project to the performers, musicians and supporters of traditional Chinese puppet theatre. Despite their struggling efforts to sustain this theatrical form, these heritage bearers continue to persevere and express their unwavering faith in us by agreeing to take part in hours of interviews and photography sessions that form the backbone of this book. Special thanks to Charlene Tan for kindly sharing her collection of Teochew iron-stick puppets with us, and Teacher Lai Yong-ting and Chen Guan-Lin from Taiwan for sharing their expertise on the Hokkien puppets. We are also greatly appreciative of Geoff Ang and his team who experimented with various photography techniques to create aesthetically appealing shots and effects in the effort to make traditional puppet theatre more relevant in the contemporary sense. Our thanks also extend to the staff from the National Library Board for their support in our online exhibition.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the materials are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Heritage Board and Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.

Erratum: Due to a glitch in the technical setup, the masked/dancing official featured in the following pages of the book (108-109, insert of 118-119, 123) should be wearing an official headgear as shown in page 125.