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Nang Yai

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Nang Yai
Designated in
2009
Region
Central
Overview

Nang Yai is an old form of Thailand’s traditional performing arts. The leather puppets represent the characters in the story. They are manipulated against a blank screen by the puppeteers, while the story progresses through narration and dialogue narration.

n006istorical evidence of Nang Yai dates back to the reign of King Borommatrailokanat, when Nang Yai was mentioned in the Palace Law. Several other sources dating from the Ayutthaya era also bear testimony to this performing art form.

Nang Yai is hailed as a high art form and is performed during royal ceremonies and important national events and occasions.

The Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 AD dealt a serious blow to the performing arts, ancient monuments and objects, which were later restored in the Ratanakosin era. At the time of the restoration, several Nang Yai troupes mushroomed, but they mostly belonged to temples. The Nang Yai in this period was called “Nang Rat” (“Commoners’ Shadow Puppet Spectacle”).

Distinctive characteristics of Nang Yai:

1. The puppets are made of cowhide leather, cut and perforated to let the light shine through the intricate design. Each puppet is fixed to wooden sticks, which the puppeteers lift up against a blank screen that is lighted from behind;n005

2. The rectangular screen is made of white cloth surrounded by strips of red cloth to highlight it;

3. The music from a Grand Pi Phat orchestra accompanies the movements of puppeteers and the puppets and contributes to the emotional expression of the spectacle;

4. The puppeteers are exclusively men. They dance their role to the musical accompaniment as they manipulate and bring the puppets to life;

5. There is one story narrator and one dialogue narrator. They sit in their corner on opposite sides of the screen. These narrators must understand the story very well and understand the music that accompanies the spectacle;

6. In the old time, the night-time performances were lighted by fire that used the coconut shells as fuel because they give off a beautiful glow on the screen;

7. The spectacle usually depicts the story from Ramakian.

Nang Yai spectacle harmoniously integrates several art forms–handicraft, literature, dance, rhetoric, and music.

Besides the Fine Arts Department and the Bandit Phatthana Sin Institute, both of which are responsible for preserving the Nang Yai performing arts, only three Nang Yai troupes exist in Thailand: the troupe of Wat Khanon Temple in Ratchaburi Province, one of Wat Sawang Arom Temple in Sing Buri Province, and one of Wat Ban Don Temple in Rayong Province.

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