top of page

Shadow Play In Myriad Families

Chen Shuxin, Cai Hairuo, Ma Xiaoxing

Light reminds us of the Shadow Play from childhood—a childhood memory of light and shadow. Shadow Play is an ancient traditional Chinese folk art, which began in the Western Han Dynasty. It is a folk drama form performed by animal-skined or cardboard puppets in silhouette, which achieves the artistic effect by enabling the audience to watch the plane puppet show in front of an illuminated white backdrop. During the performance, the artists are behind the backdrop, manipulating the puppets, telling stories with local popular tunes, accompanied by percussion instruments and strings, which has a strong local flavor.

Due to the inevitable limitations of traditional shadow play in many aspects, it is difficult to survive in the fast-paced society. As an intangible cultural heritage, it is in a state of no inheritance . In today's age of entertainment life, shadow play's charm is fading away. Seen only on special occasions, shadow play seems to live only in memory.
In this project, we go back to the origin of the shadow play - Hua county,Shaanxi Province,China.

Located in the northwest of China, Hua county is a small mountain village in the Loess Plateau and the birthplace of Shadow Play. The sunshine there is sufficient, and most of the buildings are cave houses. The ancient dwelling form—cave house is not only a product of the loess plateau, but also a symbol of the people in northern Shaanxi.

Daylight in the cave depends on single-sided lighting. However, the natural light in the cave weakens rapidly with the increase of the depth, which causes the uneven distribution and the significant variation of indoor lighting. At the same time, due to the location, indoor lighting infrastructure is relatively weak.

At the entrance of the cave, a lifting solar curtain can be set up. People can raise or lower the curtain according to the change of indoor and outdoor lighting, so as to improve the indoor lighting’s intensity and indoor comfort level. At the same time, the curtain can make the incident light reflected into the cave in the form of the soft diffuse light, which improves the uneven distribution of lighting in the cave. The curtain is made of fabric woven into wearable dye-sensitized solar cells. Wearable dye‐sensitized solar cell (DSC) textiles is a metal–textile electrode that was made from micrometer‐sized metal wires was used as a working electrode, while the textile counter electrode was woven from highly aligned carbon nanotube fibers with high mechanical strengths and electrical conductivities. The resulting DSC textile exhibited a high energy conversion efficiency that was well maintained under bending. with the high energy conversion efficiency and bending resistance, it can convert solar energy absorbed during the daytime into electricity for indoor lighting at night, thus the current weak indoor lighting infrastructure is improved.

When an object is illuminated, a shadow is created for the light is blocked. During the day, inside of the cave is dark and outside of the cave is bright. When the local people are doing outdoor activities under sufficient light, the light will project the figures onto the curtain, and indoor people can see the shadow of outdoor peoples’ activities. When night falls, artificial lighting will light up the cave. When people are in the cave, the indoor light can project the figures onto the curtain. People passing by outside can feel the activity of the people inside.

Combining the randomness of human activities with the projection law of artificial light, the indoor and outdoor people enjoy an interesting interaction in different time periods through the curtain at the entrance of the cave. What’s more, in the alternation of day and night, everyone becomes the characters of this "Shadow Play", performing the drama of today's life. Shadow Play is inadvertently integrated into our lives, and staged in every family.

The modern inheritance of ancient culture needs to learn from the past and carry on to the future. Through the Shadow Play of contemporary people's life, we hope that the culture of shadow can be closely connected with people's life in a new way. While lighting the cave, shadow play culture will continue to pass on.

bottom of page