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Shadow Plays



Shadow Plays
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.65

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    distraught, landing, longevity, mid-18th, precursor, puppetry, shadowy, sown, vignette, supposedly, coordination, entertainment, performer, campout, tragedy, traditional
     content words:    Emperor Wu, Han Dynasty, Song Dynasty, In Taiwan, Shaanxi Folk Arts Theater, Shaanxi Folk Art Theater, United States, Folk Art Theater


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Shadow Plays
By Colleen Messina
  

1     One of the best kinds of entertainment on a camping trip is making shadows on the tent wall. All you need is a flashlight, your fingers, and your imagination for a good show. What most people don't know is that shadow plays have been a form of entertainment in many cultures for hundreds of years.
 
2     According to legends, shadow plays were inspired by a tragedy. The great Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty in China began his reign in about 141 B.C. He had many new ideas for his kingdom and accomplished a great deal, but then his favorite girlfriend died. The loss of this girl made him very sad. He wanted her back, so he gave his officials an unusual assignment. They had to bring the girl back to life! Of course, this was impossible, but because it was a command from the emperor, they had to figure out something to help him feel better.
 
3     The officials decided to create a model of the girl. They used donkey leather to make her shape. Poor girl! The model even had moving joints. She had painted clothes. The innovative officials then used an oil lamp to cast the shadow of this leather figure on to a screen. This moving figure represented the lost girl. The shadow play delighted the emperor, and the seeds of a new art form were sown.

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