Taiwanese master of Chinese shadows. Among the five troupes of shadow theatre still active in Taiwan, Fu Hsing Ko (Fusingke; Fuxingge) is the most important. The company has toured successfully to Europe and the United States. The status was attained by the work of Master Hsu Fu-Neng (Xu Funeng) who was not only a fine performer behind the screen but he also designed and made the puppets. He personally selected the appropriate buffalo skin, cut, painted, and attached the rods, before giving the figures voice and movement. His relation with the figures was therefore very personal. Hsu Fu-Neng is considered one of the “three greats” of Taiwanese puppetry along with Lin Tsan-Cheng (Lin Zancheng; string puppets) and Huang Hai-Dai (Huang Haidai; glove puppets).

Growing up with the sounds of the gong and drum of the shadow theatre, Hsu Fu-Neng at seventeen became an assistant of Chang Ming-Shou (Zhang Mingshou), the best-known shadow master of that period.

Since the practice of an art was not sufficient to earn a living (“amateur” artists contributed to the ritual life of the community, and were more respected than “professionals”), Hsu Fu-Neng had another profession – that of an organizer of banquets. He was thus directly involved with festivals, rituals, and ceremonies for the gods.

After exercising the art of shadow theatre for over fifty years, Hsu Fu-Neng inherited Chang Ming-Shou’s troupe and married his daughter. He founded the Fuxingge in 1957 and continued to preserve the tradition by transmitting his skills, breaking the tradition of secrecy or “non-transmission to outsiders” (buchuan wairen). He taught his disciples without reservation, instilling in them the determination that the art should not die and its beauty would flourish.

The troupe often tours abroad and includes, besides the master, the set designer Lin Miao-Hsien (Lin Miaoxian), puppeteers Hsu Fu-Ching (Xu Fuqing), Hsu Fu-Tsu (Xu Fuzhu) and Hsu Ching-Feng (Xu Qingfeng), and stage managers and musicians. One of the major plays presented internationally is Nata cao donghai (Nezha Nata Conquers the Dragon King), relating the story of Li Nezha, a mythical figure capable of controlling the elements, who helped King Wu defeat the last Shang king and found the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BCE).