Taiwanese marionette puppeteer. This artist of Yilan in north-eastern Taiwan is one of the few inheritors of the traditional string puppetry skills (called the “northern” or beiguan opera). Lin Tsan-Cheng began studying at the age of sixteen and inherited his theatre from his father, Hsin Fu-Hsuan (Xin Fuxuan) who gave his name to the Hsin Fu Hsuan (Xinfuxuan) Theatre.
The Daoist (Taosit) temples supported by their neighbours and the community often invites Lin Tsan-Cheng to intercede to the spirits for the Great Spring Sacrifice and for votive ceremonies. The troupe also performs for weddings, funerals, inaugurations of new temples, after tragic accidents (to appease the spirits of the deceased), and to ask for favours from heaven/deities and ward off evil influences. Lin Tsan-Cheng’s puppetry is an act of devotion (a religious ritual) that aids the community. Today, with the advance of “progress”, his influence has been reduced. Some intellectuals, however, have shown interest in the tradition and have invited Lin Tsan-Cheng to present performances as pure artistic entertainment.
Recognized as a living treasure, Lin Tsan-Cheng has also been invited to perform abroad, notably in France, the Netherlands, Italy and Austria in 1987, then in New York in 1991. In 1995, at the Maison des Cultures du Monde (World Cultures Institute) in Paris, he presented along with the glove puppet master Huang Hai-Dai (Huang Haidai) and the shadow theatre master Hsu Fu-Neng (Xu Funeng). Ignored by local government authorities in their old age and rarely hired for performances, these artists are nevertheless charged with representing the culture of the Chinese tradition.
The Hsin Fu Hsuan (Xinfuxuan) theatre troupe is composed of fifteen people, including multiple generations: this assures the transmission of technique and knowledge. Besides the master, there are four puppeteers, a narrator, an orchestra, a props person, and two administrators.