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November 5, 2009

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400 traditional puppets lost to fire

A REGION of Taiwan that prides itself on puppetry, an art that originated centuries ago in Chinese mainland, lost 400 to 500 of its best pieces to a fire, leaving just one major stash, county officials said yesterday.

The fire, which is under investigation, burned most of the large, ornate, life-like and one-of-a-kind puppets in a warehouse in Huwei of Yunlin County in central Taiwan, officials said.

The blaze spared only a few that had been taken out for a performance.

"This is a big part of the county's culture, so we value its survival," said Chang Chia-hao, of the county culture office. "Each puppet may have had only one or two likenesses, so there's no way to replicate them."

Taiwan newspapers called the fire a "burial" and listed names of the more famous burned puppets, which belonged to locally renowned puppetry master Huang Chun-hsiung.

Yunlin's puppetry is a tradition dating back about 300 years to Fujian Province of southeast China.


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