最會「請尪仔」的人間國寶 掌中戲藝師

陳錫煌
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2019 / 2月

文‧鄧慧純 圖‧莊坤儒


若您看過楊力州執導的紀錄片《紅盒子》,一定會對片中戲偶用印的動作記憶深刻。短短20秒,戲偶拿起案前的印章,頸項細微地轉動,端詳手上的印鑑,右手持印下壓,左手覆在其上,輔以戲偶肩部細微扭動用力的動作,細緻地捕捉了衣著下筋骨、肌肉的牽扯拉動,不須借助任何特效聲光效果,細膩的動作,震攝了許多從小看過布袋戲的國人。幕後操偶人是已臻世界級的掌中戲藝師陳錫煌,他是《紅盒子》的主角,也是台灣的人間國寶。

 


 

陳錫煌,今年已89歲,至今仍引領著「陳錫煌傳統掌中劇團」,傳藝不輟。更早之前,他執掌的劇團名叫「新宛然」,出自國內知名布袋戲大師李天祿所創的「亦宛然」系統,李天祿是他父親,入贅大龍峒陳維英家族,依傳統習俗,長子從母姓。與掌中戲的相遇是命定,父子不同姓,是他生命中另一個無解;但他一生淡然不爭,只有遇到傳統技藝瀕危之際,他才以近八十歲高齡組劇團,誓願再復振這門源自中原,在台發揚光大的「掌中戲」。

掌中戲的輝煌時代

從13歲開始,陳錫煌站在掌中戲彩樓後頭少說有七十多個年頭了。

1931年,陳錫煌出生,李天祿亦在同年創立中外馳名的「亦宛然」掌中劇團。自此陳錫煌的生命與一尊尊的戲偶無法切割,他與弟弟李傳燦(1945~2009)、西螺「新興閣」的鍾任壁(1932~)、虎尾「五洲園」第二代的黃俊雄(1933~)和小西園第二代演師許王(1936~),這批同世代的掌中戲演師,撐起了台灣布袋戲風光輝煌的時代。

時光回溯到1960~70年代的台灣,人民生活沒什麼娛樂,看戲而已。「以前是農業時代,大家生活比較沒那麼緊張,吃飽閒閒就來廟口看戲。」陳錫煌說。當時布袋戲團天天都有戲約,這個庄頭表演完後,廟方就會約定明年的戲約,「一年前就注文好了」。陳錫煌描述當年的景況,劇團的生活忙碌而緊湊,吃過午飯就要整裝出門,一天演兩場戲,下午三點,晚餐後再一場,回到家都夜深了。

辛苦是一回事,更具挑戰的是「現點現演」。戲碼常是到現場擲筊,才知道今天神明想看哪一齣,所以全部的家當都要扛著去,已經跟陳錫煌學戲十多年的林銘文在旁說明。陳錫煌說:「有的愛看文,有的愛看武,所以都要準備好。」

惟今非昔比,昔日師傅們的真功夫,今日藝生能習得有限。但陳錫煌還是不留一手地傾囊相授。他教戲時不讓藝生看劇本,只把故事概略解說一回,「變成自己的東西之後,再自行衍生出活的劇情。……這樣演出來才有感情,如果照劇本唸,就像在讀冊了。」陳錫煌解釋。

訪談間,小西園第三代、現「新西園」園主許正宗突然來訪,嗓門大、說話又急又快的他也加入聊天的行列。他翻出父親傳下來的劇本《鷹爪王》,已被翻得破舊的冊子,少說都有50年以上的歷史,上頭密密麻麻寫滿字,「以前這樣一頁,就可以演一個晚上。」他再舉例,劇本上只寫「兩人談」3個字,但頭手(主演)就要自己演繹發揮,讓兩個戲偶在台上即興演出。許正宗笑說:「所以才說我們這一代是那卡西組(隨點隨演),再下來50歲~30歲叫做卡拉OK組(要看字幕才會唱)。」

從傳統再創新

「古早有布袋戲以來,都是聽戲,聽口白而已,沒有人在看尪仔。」陳錫煌講起以前的傳統。

時至今日,聽懂台語口白的人迅速銳減,掌中戲的市場式微。陳錫煌六十多歲時,著手研究發揚,「我把傳統一些不好的丟掉,再把一些好的東西添上去,這樣比較好看。」

為了讓聽不懂台語口白的外國人也能領略掌中戲的美,他將自己的看家戲《巧遇姻緣》再改編,不用口白,只取動作,三尊戲偶「生」、「旦」、「丑」就讓人為之傾倒,也從細節看出陳錫煌的再創新。

他請的小生風流倜儻,一邊踱步,一邊搖扇,傳統是用袖口把扇子展開,陳錫煌將之改良,用戲偶的手指輕輕把扇面撥開,讓人驚呼連連。

小旦的動作更見難度,用手撐開紙傘,是一絕。再用手指把烏黑的長髮撥到胸前梳弄,再一個甩手,讓髮絲飛散,拋到肩後,宛如人的動作一般。戲偶要下場了,只見小旦微微側身,那幾乎只有0.5度角的微微頷首,就把女性的羞怯、顧盼流連的風采展露無遺,讓人想對著戲偶吹口哨。

手搖著扇子,走加跳的步伐,可以蹺二郎腿,哈上一管菸,搔搔頭,敲敲腦袋,丑角的性格就在動作中展現。

「活」,是陳錫煌請尪仔的核心精神,要讓戲偶的動作宛然如人一般,包括姿勢、眼神、力度,「你不能把它當作是戲偶,要把他當作是人。」尪仔的眼神一定追著動作的方向,「就像我在跟你說話時,我的臉一定向著你,不可能面向其他方向,這樣沒禮數。」陳錫煌解釋道;留意他說話的用語,用了「請」神明的「請」字,更透露藝師發自內心對這份藝術的敬意。

還記得在一場由結業藝生陳冠霖主演的表演,陳錫煌客串上陣表演弄碗公的戲碼,用棍子撐起厚重的陶碗公旋轉,已是專業級的陳錫煌卻操弄得似倒非倒的,讓台下的觀眾看得緊張兮兮,真怕就弄破碗公了,用現代的流行語講就是在「撩」觀眾,「這樣比較好看」,擁有無數野台經驗的陳錫煌,深知怎麼讓戲更好看的撇步。

佛要金裝,人要衣裝,尪仔也要裝得水水,上台亮相才風光。陳錫煌亦精於戲偶的製作,舉凡刺繡、雕刻、彩繪、裁縫各項工藝都難不倒他,各式的衣飾、盔帽,小生的摺扇、小旦的長髮亦是他自己研發改良。

79歲那年,陳錫煌再入江湖,創「陳錫煌傳統掌中劇團」。「我看當時傳統的東西快要消失了,才想說出來整一個團,加減來拉拔一下傳統的東西,看看救不救得回來。」陳錫煌說。

其實,自1970年代之後,金光戲當道,接續霹靂當朝,傳統掌中戲榮景已失。但早在1984年,他與弟弟李傳燦就在父親李天祿的指示下,開始在板橋莒光國小進行校園傳承,持續了13年之久。陳錫煌的弟子也為宛然家族開枝散葉,如吳榮昌成立「弘宛然」、黃武山的「山宛然」,還有來自法國的路婉伶。

身為文化部重要傳統藝術保存者,陳錫煌也招收藝生,只要願意學,他沒有留一手,但在他多次的講座、言談中,察覺他的著急與不安,他也希望企業多多出力贊助,這是一門活生生的技藝,培植的藝生要有實際上場的歷練才能進步,從做中學,亦是練就一手功夫的不二法門。

《紅盒子》風潮

雖說是李天祿的兒子,但陳錫煌一手功夫「爸爸沒有教我啦!」他總是這樣說。「我說給你聽,他都睡到近中午,起床後吃午飯,吃飽飯就要出門去演戲了,等回來都晚了,隔天的行程也一樣,所以他真的沒有時間教我們。」

所有的功夫是陳錫煌在一旁用眼看、用耳聽、用心學。媒體或是書籍中,提到李天祿曾因他遞錯尪仔,氣怒下用木偶敲他的頭,讓陳錫煌嚇得逃走。那是東方傳統父子的教養方式,也「因為『姓』的關係,因為他姓李,我姓陳,有時想到這件事情(父子不同姓)他才會生氣,對咱壞。但是沒事的時候,他也對我們很好。老人家有一個脾氣,他一旦發起脾氣來,就沒有管你是誰了。」陳錫煌為此下註解。

《紅盒子》上映後,父子的議題頓時成了焦點,但他悠悠的說:「怎麼會怨,序大人(台語,長輩)是不能夠怨的啦。」

但是他和父親沒話講,是不爭的事實,反倒是和供奉在紅盒子裡的祖師爺田都元帥有滿腹的想說,「我每天早上都會跟祖師爺講話,叫他幫我找一些人客,保庇這些徒子徒孫,多努力練習一點。」因著這段互動,楊力州解讀田都元帥就是他哲學上的父親,並以《紅盒子》為片名而成此雙重隱喻。

問他漫漫的人生,有無哪段情事最讓他記憶深刻?他想了想說:「幾年前在上海那次。」(2012年陳錫煌受邀到上海TED演說)

「那時候發生什麼事情?」

「沒有發生什麼事情。我只請了三尊尪仔。一演完,我最歡喜最歡喜是什麼你知道嗎?是整個劇院的人,每個人都站起來鼓掌。」訪問以來,一直淡淡回應的陳錫煌,說到這兒忽然語氣激動了。

還有去年《紅盒子》上院線,陳錫煌無預警出現在戲院時,許多觀眾都起立鼓掌,原本哭紅了的雙眼,看到陳錫煌的身影,哭得更慘。

2009年陳錫煌獲文建會(今文化部)指定為「重要傳統藝術布袋戲類保存者」。2011年他被授證為「古典布袋戲偶衣飾盔帽道具製作技術保存者」;但最觸動這位人間國寶的生命時刻,不是任何的得獎時分,而是從第一線觀眾得到的真實回饋,讓他最最感動。

楊力州拍攝《紅盒子》的過程中,陳錫煌一度有想把紅盒子傳給來自法國的路婉伶,「我霎時間就變成義和團了,怎麼可以傳給外國人。」楊力州在影後座談轉述當時他與陳錫煌對話的情景。但對陳錫煌而言,掌中戲可以是全人類的文化資產,值得被慎重的對待;這門在台灣被光大的技藝更是我們該當珍惜的。                            

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英文

A Living National Treasure

Cathy Teng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams

Those who have seen Yang Li-chou’s film Father will almost certainly remember the scene in which a puppet uses a seal. The puppet picks up the seal, turns its head to study the seal’s engraving, then presses it down on a document with both hands, its shoulders turning slightly to add more pressure. The puppet is operated with such skill and artistry that viewers sense the small movements of the muscles and joints beneath the puppet’s clothing. The scene is just one example of the mastery of his art shown by Taiwanese national treasure Chen Hsi-­huang, the subject of the film.


Chen Hsi-­huang may be 87 years old, but he still leads the Chen Hsi-­huang Traditional Puppet Troupe in a relent­less effort to pass on his art. Many years ago, he led a troupe called Hsin Wan Jan (“new Wan­ Jan”), an offshoot of the I Wan Jan Puppet Theater troupe founded by his father, the renowned glove puppetry master Li Tien-lu (1910—1998). Chen bears his mother’s surname because Li had entered into a ru­zhui marriage, a tradition whereby the bridegroom is adopted into the wife’s family and their eldest son takes his mother’s family name, enabling parents-in-law without a male heir to continue their family line. Given Chen’s family background, a career in puppetry was virtually assured, but Li and Chen shared a difficult relationship. In spite of his lineage, Chen maintained a relatively low profile until he was nearly 80 years old, when the looming prospect of traditional puppetry’s extinction inspired him to form a troupe expressly dedicated to reviving this Chinese art form that had been raised to new heights in Taiwan.

Glove puppetry’s heyday

Chen was born in 1931, the same year that his father founded his domestically and internationally renowned I Wan Jan Puppet Theater. Puppets filled Chen’s life from its earliest moments. He and the other puppeteers of his generation, including his younger brother Li Chuan­-tsan (1945—2009), ­Zhong Renbi (b. 1932), who founded the Hsin ­Hsing Kuo Puppet Show Troupe, To­shio ­Huang (b. 1933), son of the founder of the Wu­zhou­yuan puppetry troupe, and Xu Wang (b. 1936), son of the founder of the Hsiao Hsi Yuan Puppet Theater, collectively ushered in the golden age of Taiwanese glove puppetry.

In the Taiwan of the 1960s and 1970s, there were few entertainment options beyond theater. Back then, glove puppetry troupes had engagements nearly every day, and as soon as they finished an engagement at a village temple, its management would re-book them for the following year. “We would have a full slate through the next year.” As a result, performers lived hectic lives. Chen recalls operating on a two-shows-per-day schedule that required them to hustle out the door right after lunch to set up, and that kept them out late into the evening.

The daily grind was bad enough, but there was also a good deal of uncertainty. Programs were often put together on the spot after casting moon blocks to divine which play the gods wished to see that day, so troupes had to bring all of their props to every show, just in case.

Things are different today, and students have limited opportunities to learn all their teachers know. Chen doesn’t hold anything back when teaching his art. One of his techniques is to not let students look at a script; instead he simply tells them the basic elements of the story. “Once they’ve internalized the story, they can produce their own living versions…. That’s how you perform with feeling,” he explains.

Xu Zheng­zong, the current director of the Hsin Hsi Yuan Puppet Theater and the grandson of its founder, pops by during our visit, his brash, rapidfire voice ­adding another note to our conversation. As we talk, he thumbs through a well-worn script for The Eagle Claw King passed down from his father, pausing on a page covered with dense notes. “In the old days, you could perform all night from a page like this.” He then shows us a page inscribed with just three words: “Two people talk.” Xu explains that the lead puppeteer would have to develop the story himself, improvising the performance with the two puppets on stage. He says: “That’s why we say we are the ‘Na­kasi’ generation [who perform whatever the audience requests], and the younger generation of 30- to 50-year-olds are the ‘kara­oke’ generation [they need to see the lyrics to sing].”

Reinventing the tradition

“Since glove puppetry’s earliest days, its audiences have focused on listening to the opera and listening to the narration. Nobody used to pay much attention to the puppets themselves,” says Chen.

But the number of people who understand the Taiwanese narration has plummeted in recent years, and the glove puppetry market has become very small, prompting the 60-something Chen to innovate. “I’ve dumped some not-so-good parts of the tradition, and added some good stuff to make the performances more enjoyable to watch.”

To enable foreign audience members who don’t under­stand Taiwanese to follow the narration, he reworked his signature A Chance Encounter Leads to Marriage by removing the narration and telling the story through movement alone. The three puppet roles—­sheng (young man), dan (young woman), and chou (clown)—win the audience over, while the finer points of the performance highlight Chen’s innovations to the art form.

His sheng character is elegant and romantic. He strolls, fans himself, and even uses his puppet fingers to unfurl the fan.

Chen enlivens his dan character with even more intric­ate and difficult movements, making the puppet pull her long black hair over her shoulders so she can comb it, and then flip it behind her back again in a very lifelike way.

His chou holds a fan, skips when he walks, sits with his legs crossed, puffs on a pipe, and scratches and taps his head, revealing his personality through his movements.

The main focus of Chen’s puppetry is “life.” He wants his puppets to resemble people in all respects, including their postures, expressions and movements. He also has a habit of describing what he wants from his puppets in terms of “asking” them, revealing a master’s deep respect for the art he practices.

Chen Hsi-­huang recalls a recent show at which a graduating apprentice named Chen Guan­lin had the headlining spot on the program, and at which he himself had a guest slot performing a plate spinning routine with puppets. Ever the professional, Chen Hsi-­huang kept the audience on the edges of their seats by pretending to nearly drop the heavy ceramic plates he held precariously balanced on sticks. “It made for a better show,” says Chen, a veteran of innumerable outdoor performances who knows well how to make them entertaining.

Chen formed the Chen Hsi-­huang Traditional Puppet Troupe and resumed performing at the age of 77. “Traditional culture was rapidly disappearing, so I thought I should put together a troupe to promote some traditional things.”

Traditional puppetry began its decline when the jin­guang (“golden light”) style took over the mainstream in the 1970s, and continued its decline with the emergence of the pili (“thunderbolt”) style. Beginning in 1984, Chen and his younger brother Li Chuan­-tsan spent 13 years teaching traditional puppetry in schools. A number of Chen’s students have gone on to create their own offshoots of the I Wan Jan family, with Wu Rong­chang establishing the Hong Oan Jian Classical Puppet Troupe, ­Huang Wu­shan establishing the Shan Puppet Theater, and France’s Lucie Cunningham (née Kelche) also applying the skills she learned from Chen both as a puppet maker and a puppeteer.

Chen holds nothing back from those willing to study. Believing that traditional puppetry is still a vibrant art form, and that students need the practical experience of performing to hone their skills, he has also been hoping for financial support from the private sector.

The popularity of Father

Chen always tells people that even though he is Li Tien-lu’s son, “Dad didn’t teach me.” He explains, “He always used to sleep until nearly noon. Then he’d get up, eat lunch, and go out to perform. He never got back until late in the evening, so he really didn’t have time to teach us.”

Chen picked up his skills by watching, listening, and studying hard. Media stories and books have mentioned that Li would get so angry with Chen if he passed him the wrong puppet that he would hit him over the head with a wooden puppet, and that in the end Chen fled. But Chen says that was just how fathers typically taught sons in East Asia. “There was also the surname issue, that he was a Li and I was a Chen, and his bad temper. Once he got angry, he didn’t care who you were.”

Public attention focused on the father‡son issue after the movie was released, but Chen says: “How can I complain? You can’t complain about your elders.”

Even so, it was widely known that he and his father had little to say to one another. He says in the film that he speaks instead to the General Tian, the god of theater. “I talk to General Tian every morning, asking him to help me find customers, to look after my students and their students, and to encourage them to train harder.” Yang Li-chou’s interpretation of this relationship is that General Tian is Chen’s philosophical father, adding another level of meaning to the film’s title, Father.

Asked what has made the strongest impression on him, he thinks for a moment, then says: “My trip to Shanghai a few years ago.” (Chen gave a TED Talk in Shanghai in 2012.)

“What happened?”

“Nothing happened. I just performed with three puppets. When I finished, everyone stood up and applauded.” Throughout our interview, Chen had been lackadaisical in his responses, but he spoke feelingly about this moment.

In 2009, the Council for Cultural Affairs (now the Ministry of Culture) designated Chen an “important preserver of traditional puppetry.” In 2011, he was named a “preserver of traditional techniques for making glove-puppet costumes, hats and props.” But the most moving moment in this living national treasure’s life didn’t involve an award—it was instead the time he received a real response from an audience.

During Yang Li-chou’s filming of Father, Chen thought of giving the red box containing his General Tian statue to French puppeteer Lucie Cunningham. Speaking at a post-screening Q&A, Yang recalled Chen telling him: “I suddenly feel like a Boxer, and wonder how I can give something like this to a foreigner.” But Chen has come to see glove puppetry as a cultural treasure for all of humanity, one that must be conscientiously cared for. Polished to a brilliant sheen in Taiwan, it is an art form we should cherish and respect.                                 

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