These Chinese shadows, whether made from cut paper or born from your own hands, are sure to be a hit with the whole family. They are magical around a campfire or at a slumber party and will delight even the youngest. In addition, with a little technique, you can make really beautiful puppets! The Chinese shadows featured here are suitable for all ages and skill levels, so let's get started!
Method 1 of 3: Make simple Chinese shadows with your hands
Step 1. Make a bird using both hands
Of all the achievable shadows, this one is arguably the simplest. It is therefore ideal for very young children who want to participate in the game, but whose movements are not yet coordinated enough to make more complex shadows. To get a bird, hold your hands in front of your face, palms facing you, place one in front of the other, and interlock your thumbs. Extend your fingers to form the wings of the bird.
To make the bird "fly", curl your fingers inward then outward, alternately
Step 2. Make a dog with one hand
This shadow is also quite simple, although it does require bending the index and middle fingers while leaving the other fingers extended, which is not necessarily obvious. Start by forming a fist, thumb up. Extend your pinky and ring finger parallel to the floor, while keeping your other fingers bent. Slightly raise your thumb to make the dog's ear.
To wiggle the dog's jaw, wiggle your pinky finger
Step 3. Make a swan
This Chinese shadow requires both hands and part of the arm: it is one of the most voluminous presented here. Start by raising one arm, elbow bent, and bring your extended fingers together into a point. Place the palm of your other hand on your bicep and extend your fingers to form the feathers of the swan's tail.
Step 4. Make a camel with one hand
This shade, of intermediate difficulty, is perfect for those who want to embark on more complicated shapes. Raise one arm, elbow bent with hand towards the ceiling. Slightly curl your middle and ring fingers forward and bridge your index finger to form the camel's eye: get used to this movement, as it is often used in more complex Chinese shadows. Let your little finger hang down a bit to make the camel's lower lip. Your thumb should not be visible: hide it behind your hand.
To move the camel's mouth, gently wiggle your pinky finger
Step 5. Make an old man
This character is ideal for Chinese shadow shows because it can easily be made to "speak". Raise your hand and point your index finger. Curve your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky in an arc to make the old man's eye. Bend the thumb and stick it to the index finger to make its jaw.
To make him speak, nothing could be easier: wiggle your thumb back and forth to the rhythm of your words
Method 2 of 3: Make intricate Chinese shadows with your hands
Step 1. Make a face
This shadow is not obvious and requires both of your hands, but done properly, the face seems gifted with a life of its own. Start by raising your left hand, palm facing you and making a circle with your thumb and middle finger. Glue your ring finger and pinky and bend them inward. Let your index finger rest on the circle formed by your thumb and middle finger, it should protrude slightly. With your right hand, palm down, curl your ring finger and pinky inward and form an arc with your middle finger and index finger to form the eye. Place this hand on top of the other, still palm down, to complete the face.
To make the face speak, you have to move the ring finger and little finger of your left hand independently of the other fingers. You will need practice, because it is not easy
Step 2. Make a Bulldog
The difficulty of this Chinese shadow is not the position you will have to give your fingers, but the orientation of your hands. Place your left hand palm down. Curl all your fingers except the thumb at the second phalanx and curl your thumb underneath. Curl all the fingers of your right hand except the thumb to form an arch which will be the bulldog's eye and straighten the thumb to make his ear. Finally, place your right hand on the left so that all your joints are pointing in the same direction and find the perfect position that will make the bulldog visible: easier said than done!
To make the bulldog bark, wiggle your left thumb up and down
Step 3. Make an elephant
For his trunk, you will have to place your middle and ring fingers in a very special way. Start by raising your left hand, palm down. Point your middle and ring fingers down, while keeping your index finger and pinky straight (much like the "devil horns" sign for rock and metal lovers). Bend your thumb and place it under your palm. Place your right hand, palm down, over your left hand and bend all fingers except the thumb to form the elephant's eye.
Move the middle and ring fingers of your left hand to wiggle the elephant's trunk. You can also make him speak using the thumb of your left hand
Step 4. Make a deer
It takes a lot of training to succeed in this shadow Chinese, but the rewards are worth the effort. Start by raising your left hand, palm down, and bring your index, middle, and ring fingers together into a point. Fold your thumb under your hand and extend your pinky a little lower than the other fingers. Place your right palm on the back of your left hand and straighten your thumb, index and middle fingers. Curl your ring finger and pinky to make the deer's eye.
To make the deer talk, wiggle the little finger of your left hand up and down. Be subtle: deer are generally calm and delicate (except when surprised by a Chinese elephant shadow, of course)
Step 5. Make a small dog
Thanks to this shade, you will get a pretty dog of the terrier or dachshund type. Start by raising your right arm, elbow bent and hand towards the ceiling. Lower your ring finger and pinky so that they point forward. Place your middle finger over your index finger and curl it to make the dog's eye. Raise your thumb inside the hook formed by your index finger. Place the palm of your left hand against your right wrist, then extend your index and middle fingers while raising your thumb behind your wrist to form the dog's tail. The ring finger and little finger of your left hand should not be visible.
This dog is unfortunately unable to speak, you will have to make him move so that he can speak
Method 3 of 3: Make paper shadow shadows
Step 1. Gather the items you will need
Do you have trouble twisting your hands in all directions to make an animal appear? No problem ! You can make beautifully detailed Chinese shadows using simple materials that are sure to hang out here and there in your home. Here's what you need:
- thick paper
- a light source (lamp or bulb)
- a cardboard box (for the "scene")
- wooden chopsticks
- a handkerchief, tissue paper or parchment paper (for your "screen")
Step 2. Build your "stage"
To start, cut the bottom of a cardboard box, leaving edges of about 2 inches. Then attach a handkerchief or a sheet of thin paper (tissue or parchment paper) to the frame so that it completely covers the hole you just made. This will be the “screen” for your show: you will move your puppets between the paper and the light source so that their image is projected on the screen.
Step 3. Draw your puppets
Mark their outlines on thick paper or thin cardboard (it doesn't matter as long as it's thick enough not to be crossed by light). Your puppets can be simple or very detailed, at your convenience: have fun!
You can draw the small details such as the eyes or the mouth on the puppet so that when cut out, these details appear on the cast shadow. However, this requires a lot of meticulousness: you will probably have to use an X-Acto (sort of very precise cutter) to cut out these details right in the middle of your puppet
Step 4. Cut out your silhouettes
When you are happy with your character designs, carefully cut out their outlines. As it has been clarified, you will probably need to use an X-Acto for small details like eyes, facial features, hair, etc.
You can also use children's scissors with interchangeable blades. These scissors cut the paper into triangles, zigzags, and the like, which can be interesting for some of your puppets
Step 5. Place your puppets at the end of a stick
Gather a thin wooden stick (such as a coffee stirrer or ice cream stick) for each figure. Using a drop of glue or a piece of tape, attach your characters to these chopsticks. Let the glue dry before using your puppets.
For large puppets (or those that are articulated) you will need to use multiple chopsticks
Step 6. Prepare your show
Gather an audience and if necessary ask a few friends to participate. Position the cardboard box so that the screen faces the audience, then kneel down. Check that you can easily slip your hands into the box: if necessary, you can plan the sides of the box a little. Do whatever you want, as long as she's still standing on her own.
Do not forget to place your light source (lamp, bulb, spot, etc.) behind the box so that the light passes through the box and then the screen. It will cast the shadows of your puppets on the screen during your performance
Step 7. Start the show
If you're not already behind your box, go ahead, make sure the screen is facing the audience, gather your puppets, and turn on your light. Finally turn off the lights in the room. Let's go ! Move your puppets between the screen and the light so that their shadows are cast on the screen. Break your leg!
If the room is not dark enough for the shadows of your puppets to appear clearly, close the curtains
- You can use a projector to get flickering lights.
Why not put on a show on a festive theme? Choose a tale corresponding to the chosen holiday and cut out the figures of the characters. Write down their words and actions and memorize them. Ask a friend or family member to join you in this project, if needed.
You can make a monster story for Halloween, a Christmas story for… Christmas and a story of bunnies, eggs or chickens for Easter
- Be careful if you use candles. Better to use lamps.
- Be careful when cutting cardboard and paper.