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Dwarfs Shadow Puppet Troupe

Photographer: How Hwee Young

 

'Longzaitian' or 'Dragon in the Sky' Shadow Puppet Troupe consists of close to 50 members who look like children but are actually dwarfs with an average age of 22 and height of 1.26 meters. Dwarfs have traditionally been viewed as disabled people in China and are often discriminated by mainstream society. Due to their height, childlike voices and looks, they are frequently mistaken as children and are treated as such by colleagues and friends.

 

Created in 2008, the troupe started out with less than ten members but gradually grew in fame and stature, drawing many other dwarfs from all parts of China who seek to be accepted in a community of their own. The troupe provides training, food, accommodation and income for the members as well as a sense of belonging and pride in their work preserving the ancient art of shadow puppetry. Within seven years, the troupe currently employs 88 dwarfs in five cities in China, freeing them of social exclusion that this minority suffers. Many have found love in the community as well, with two couples getting ready to be married in September 2015.

 

Members of the troupe has even formed their own soccer team, playing weekly in summer. They can only play against teams of children aged 6-12 though due to their small size, and even then, are often defeated. This did not stop the dwarfs from enjoying the game and living life to the fullest. One of their goal is to play against 'Giants of the North', another dwarfs soccer team in Brazil..