Chinese shadow puppetry
Chinese shadow puppetry is a form of theatre acted by colourful silhouette figures made from leather or paper, accompanied by music and singing. Manipulated by puppeteers using rods, the figures create the illusion of moving images on a translucent cloth screen illuminated from behind. Many elder shadow puppetry artists can perform dozens of traditional plays, which are orally transmitted or found in written form. They master special techniques such as improvisational singing, falsetto, simultaneous manipulation of several puppets, and the ability to play various musical instruments. Many puppeteers also carve the puppets, which can have between twelve and twenty-four moveable joints. Shadow plays are performed by large troupes with seven to nine performers and smaller troupes of only two to five, primarily for entertainment or religious rituals, weddings and funerals and other special occasions. Some puppeteers are professional, while others are amateurs performing during slack farming seasons. The relevant skills are handed down in families, in troupes, and from master to pupil. Chinese shadow puppetry also passes on information such as cultural history, social beliefs, oral traditions and local customs. It spreads knowledge, promotes cultural values and entertains the community, especially the youth.
Equitation in the French tradition
Equitation in the French tradition is a school of horseback riding that emphasizes harmonious relations between humans and horses. The fundamental horse-training principles and processes are guided by non-violence and lack of constraint, blending human demands with respect for the horse’s body and mood. Knowledge of the animal itself (physiology, psychology, anatomy) and human nature (emotions and the body) , are complemented by a horseman’s state of mind that combines skill and respect for the horse. Fluidity of movements and flexibility of joints ensure that the horse participates in the exercises without coercion. Although practised throughout France and elsewhere, the most widely known community is the Cadre Noir of Saumur, based at the National School of Equitation. The common denominator among riders is the desire to establish close relations with the horse, build mutual respect and work towards achieving ‘lightness’. Cooperation between generations is strong, with respect for the experience of older riders, galvanized by the enthusiasm of younger riders. The Saumur region is also home to instructors, horse breeders, craftspeople (saddlers, boot-makers), veterinary services and blacksmiths. Frequent public displays and galas hosted by the Cadre Noir of Saumur help to sustain the visibility of equitation in the French tradition.