Oregon Folklife Network

Yuqin Wang

2012-2013 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Chinese Rod Puppetry

Apprentice: Ke (Brenda) Xu

Contact Information

Phone: 503-223-3388 (day), 503-998-0628 (evening)

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Chinese puppetry has more than one thousand years of history. It started decades ago as cultural ritual, and later became a form of entertainment to the royal family and common public. Puppet theater is surely the quintessence of theatricality. The Chinese have developed it into a high art through many centuries. Played in a curtained structure that hides manipulators, it draws the audience into a magic circle.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

Before coming to America, Yuqin Wang and her husband and fellow performer, Zhengli Xu, were both leading puppeteers with the famous China Puppet Art Troupe for more than 30 years. When Wang and Xu came to Oregon in 1966 they founded their own puppet theatre, Dragon Art Studio, where Wang continues to perform the featured roles each show. In their first year, they were invited performers at the Atlanta Summer Olympics, and over the past sixteen years they have shared the beauty and excitement of Chinese rod puppetry with audiences throughout the country. In addition, Dragon Art Studio regularly takes puppet performances to schools, libraries, museums and community centers throughout the region and country. Xu and Wang produced and performed a big production of “Flaming Mountains the Monkey King’s Adventure.” This performance has taken over a year to develop, choreograph and produce, and was successfully presented at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts’ Winningstad Theatre in April of 2007.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

The art of Chinese Rod Puppetry dates back 2000 years. This tradition needs to be preserved. Master Puppeteer, Yuqin Wang of the Dragon Art Studio is the only traditional Chinese rod puppeteer in the U.S. A treasure that is this rare needs to be supported. The show has been upgraded to include modern stories. The children love the humor in the stories and they way it is presented. It teaches the audience insight into Chinese folklore and culture. The puppet performance contains elements of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, making this production a perfect springboard for teaching about Chinese culture and exploring connections between ancient and modern quest stories.

Artist Biography

Birthplace: Beijing, China

Birth Date: 09/12/46

Yuqin Wang was born in Beijing, China where she began training in the Beijing Opera School at the age of ten years old. By the time she was eighteen, she had already sung and acted in scores of classical Beijing operas. Beginning in 1964, she directed her artistic energy toward puppetry. Through years of research and experimentation she brought new excitement to ancient puppetry by weaving in elements of traditional opera techniques. Her fame gave her opportunities to play lead roles in more than thirty puppet shows, numerous movies and television programs. She has performed throughout the world, receiving critical praise everywhere.


The National Endowment for the Arts honored Yuqin Wang in 2004 with the National Heritage Fellowship Award, the highest honor our nation gives to folk and traditional artists.


Nashville International Puppet Festival in Nashville, TN (2011)

Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, WA (2008)

Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, MI (2007)

National Folk Festival in Richmond, VA (2006)

Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, WA (2005)

American West Festival by American WEst heritage Center in Wellsville, UT (2005)

St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland (2005)

National Folk Festival in Bangor, ME (2004)

George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (2004)

Asian Festival by the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH (2004)

Worldways Children’s Museum in St. Louis, MO (2003)

Northwest Puppet Center in Seattle, WA (2003)

The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (2002)

The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (2002)

Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA (2001)

Lowell Folk Festival in Lowell, MA (2000)

National Folk Festival in East Lansing, MI (1999)

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO (1998)

The Puppeteers of America National Festival in Toledo, OH (1997)

The Children’s Theatre in San Francisco, CA (1997)

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry in Portland, OR (1996)

Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA (1996)


Citation of Excellence in the Art of Puppetry, UNIMA-USA (2008)

Artist Fellowship Grant, Oregon Arts Commission (2007)

Traditional Artists Support Grand, the Fund for Folk Culture in Santa Fe, NM (2006)

Flying Horse Community Service Award, Northwest China Council (2005)

National Heritage Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts (2004)

Project Grant, Regional Arts & Culture Council (1999)

Master Artist Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, Oregon Historical Society (1998)