A marionette is a puppet controlled from above using wires or strings depending on regional variations. Marionettes are distinguished from regular puppets by the fact that they are controlled by strings that are manipulated from above. Marionettes are sometimes referred to as "puppets", but the term "marionettes" is more precise,distinguishing them from other forms of puppetry, such as finger, glove, rod and shadow puppetry.The Myanamr name for marionette puppetry is Yoke thé. Like most of Myanmar refined
art,Yoke Thay performances originated from Royal patronage and were gradually adapted for the wider populace. Yoke Thay is almost always performed in operas.Yoke Thay, has a long history dating back more than 500 years. In a similar fashion to other folk plays around the world, Yoke Thay functioned as both royal entertainment and mass media, spreading stories of current events. Myanmar marionettes are very intricate and dexterous as they employ 18 (for male characters) or 19 (for female) wires, each puppet controlled only by one puppeteer. The probable origin of Myanmar marionettes is given as around 1780 during the reign of Singu Min and is credited to the Minister of Royal Entertainment, U Thaw. From its inception, marionettes grew in popularity till the conquest of Upper Myanmar by the British in late 1885.Yoke Thay, once a highly esteemed royal pastime, is a show not merely of stringed wooden dolls but of life-like human substitutes. They could tell stories like dramatists. They could dance like subtle choreographers. A Myanmar marionette troupe must have 27 character figures such as Buffon, Horse, Tiger, Alchemist (Zawgyi), King, Queen, Hermit (Yathei), Spirit (Nat), and Dancers. In fact, Puppetry is the blend of sculpture, painting, costuming, embroidery, and dramatic arts. A hsaing waing, a traditional Myanmar orchestra usually provides the music. The puppeteers themselves usually provide the voice of the characters.The Myanmar marionettes also served as a conduit between the ruler and his subjects. Many times, people would ask the puppeteers to mention in a veiled fashion a current event or warning to the ruler. Thus, information or popular discontent could be transferred on without any disrespect, as marionettes could say things that a human could be punished for with death.“Our tradition is unlike any other puppetry from neighboring countries. Ours has its own unique styles in every respect, including the way to manipulate the puppets and their design. “In our Yoke Thay you can enjoy all the Myanmar arts, like dancing, music, sculpture, sequin embroidery and painting.” said U Chit San Win, the author of “Yanae Myanma Yoke Thay Thabin” (“Myanmar Puppet Theater Today”).