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Li Tien-lu: Google Doodle celebrates Taiwanese puppeteer’s 110th birthday

Google Doodle celebrates the 110th birthday of Taiwanese puppeteer Li Tien-lu (李天祿; 李天禄) on December 24, 2020.

Who was Li Tien-lu (李天祿; 李天禄)?

Li Tien lu
Li Tien-lu (李天祿; 李天禄)

Li Tien-lu was born on 24 December 1910 in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. He is most popular to the international audience for playing principal characters in a few Taiwanese movies directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien.

Li Tien-lu had been trained in glove puppetry by his dad since the age of eight. He became a professional puppetry career as a youthful youngster, and in his mid-20s, he set up his own troupe: I Wan Jan.

Li Tien-lu established the puppet theatre troupe Almost Like Life in 1932, at the age of 22. The group finished performances in 1937, soon after the Second Sino-Japanese War started and Japanese authorities censored Taiwanese Hokkien entertainment. Almost Like Life got back to the stage in 1941.

Li’s group debuted one of its most famous performances, 300 Years of Qing Dynasty — Keng Yao, in 1948. They became much more notable under the Kuomintang government.

Li Tien-lu (李天祿; 李天禄) united elements like Peking opera and Taiwanese Beiguan music to make a new form of glove puppetry called Wai Jiang Pai and the troupe made an extraordinary success from the ’50s to the ’70s.

In 1962, Li’s puppet troupe became the first to be featured in a TV show. In 1973, a French researcher looked into Tien-lu’s art and asked him to teach a few of the researcher’s students. Before adequately long, Tien-lu had students from around the globe who thusly carried global popularity to the craft of Taiwanese puppetry.

Li Tien-lu thought about retirement during the 1970s, as the notoriety of glove puppetry reduced. Notwithstanding, both Jacques Pimpaneau and Jean-Luc Penso visited Li from France, and Penso stayed in Taiwan to gain proficiency with the art of glove puppetry. Penso set up the Theatre du Petit Miroir troupe in Paris in 1975.

Penso later reviewed Li’s intense and challenging teaching style and expressed that Li denied tuition payments, as he had taught his children glove puppetry for free. Different students of Li incorporated his children Chen Hsi-Hsiang and Li Chuan-tsan, as well as Huang Wu-shan, Madeleine Beresford, and Margaret Moody.

Li Tien-lu (李天祿; 李天禄) highlighted the role of the grandfather in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s 1986 film Dust in the Wind and 1987 film Daughter of the Nile. He additionally played the patriarch of the extended Chinese family confronting the events surrounding A City of Sadness (1989).

Li Tien-lu additionally performed Peking show, Taiwanese opera, and Hakka opera. He got Taiwan’s National Heritage Award in 1985, and the National Cultural Award in 1991, which was awarded the title of “Living National Treasure.”

To pay tribute to his aesthetic contributions, Tien-lu was honored as a “Living National Treasure” by the Taiwanese government, and in 1995 he was knighted by the French government.

Li Tien-lu spent the rest of his life traveling to every part of the globe to promote the art form and acted in movies like “The Puppetmaster” (1993), a biopic about his life. The Puppetmaster tells the true story of Li’s life as a master puppeteer, spanning the years from Li’s birth in 1910 to the end of Japan’s fifty-year occupation of Taiwan in 1945.

In 1995, the government of France named Li Tien-lu a knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. The Li Tien-lu Hand Puppet Historical Museum is named after Li and opened to the public in 1996.

Li Tien-lu died at 87 years old on 13 August 1998.

Li Tien-lu was posthumously highlighted in the 2001 documentary Tug of War: The Story of Taiwan.

On December 24, 2020, Google observes Li Tien-lu’s 110th Birthday with Google Doodle.

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