Zheng He

Touring Information:

This production is available for touring to International festivals and for guest performances:

Stage: minimum 8 x 5m

Light: 6 profiles, 10 PC, 4 PAR

Desk: 18 channels

Sound equipment

Age: from 7 years on

and families

More Information:


An exciting story ..

Between 1405 and 1433, the Chinese Admiral Zheng He led seven expeditions across the Pacific and Indian Ocean until well into the West. His voyages took him from Indonesia, India and the Arabic coast to Africa - almost 100 years before Christopher Columbus set off to America.

The Chinese fleet was so powerful and the ships so incredibly large that the European ships would have looked like nutshells next to them. More than 300 “dragon ships” - some of them had up to nine masts - and all of them with red sails  proclaimed the power of the Chinese emperor -  and even brought the first giraffes and zebras from Africa to China.

Every child in China knows the stories of Zheng He’s travels, and they entered the treasure of stories in the Arabic-speaking world through the transformation of his birth name “Ma Sanbao” to “Sinbad” (the sailor), while in Europe they remained widely unknown.

...told on a new level

We tell the story of Zheng He, the great Chinese explorer, through the story of the people who met him on his journey: in each of the countries he left behind a story or an anecdote. Each story is presented by one figure representing one of the main themes of his travels: a scholar from Arabia who exchanges scientific knowledge with the Chinese expedition; an African fisherman who helps bring wild animals, including a giraffe, onto the dragon ships; a businesswoman from Siam who knows the economic reasons behind the Chinese expedition.

They all tell their stories using „strange words“ (everyone is speaking in his own language - but they reach to understand each other - and so will the audience) and by the help of many different visual impressions - in a   combination and integration of puppet theater, animation, and music.


when the

dragon ships came

The fantastic journeys of the famous Chinese explorer and his adventures in Arabia, Africa and Siam - encounters between puppetry, video and animation

The music

and the sound design is composed by Gernot Ebenlechner. The authentic instruments of the different countries with their traditional sounds are integrated to new and modern sounds and offer a direct access of understanding especially for the younger audience. Gernot Ebenlechner is working since 1991 as a freelance scriptwriter, composer, producer and DJ on an international level.


„Zheng He“ receives STELLA 2011

Austrian Children and Youth Theatre Award >>>

STELLA 2011 for exceptional stage design


"ZHENG HE - when the dragon ships came"

Judgement of the Jury:

The most surprising thing about the set design of "ZHENG HE - when the dragon ships came" is above all the interaction of intricately designed video application and the action on stage: A Chinese character is painted on paper and turns magically into a ship, video and actors engage in dialogue and break through the border between screen and stage. The animated films, video clips, shadow images and masks form a poetic space where the narrative part is taken further on the visual level. The professional and multi-faceted use of new media in this production is outstanding in the field of theater for young audiences.

Past performences in:

Vienna, Linz, Izmir, Alicante, Bilbao, Guipuzcoa, Tolosa, Irun, Eibar, Albaida, Beniganim, Valencia, Villach, München, Wels, Chengdu (China), Bonn Brühl, Mistelbach, Gijon (E), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Erfurt, Heidelberg, Graz, Schwechat, Subotica (Serbien) Schweinfurt, Rendsburg, Flensburg, Pinneberg, Schleswig, Leipzig, Angers (F), Clermont-Ferrand (F), Tel Aviv (Israel), Shanghai (China),

South-America -Tour (2016): Argentina, Chile and Brazil

 „Zheng He“ wins „Award for Exceptional Visual Design“ at the UNIMA World Congress and World Puppetry Festival in Chengdu (China)

The Karin Schäfer Figuren Theater was invited to present its multimedial production "ZHENG HE - when the dragon ships came" at the „UNIMA World Congress and Festival“ in Chengdu in China and won the Award for Exceptional Visual Design.
Although more than 100 theater groups from all around the world took part of this International Congress and Festival in Chengdu, the Karin Schäfer Figuren Theater represented Austria, being the only Austrian company invited. Within numerous stages, located all across the 10 million metropole Chengdu (capital of Sichuan), diverse types of visual theater were to be seen.
Not only the audience loved Karin Schäfer's story, but the festival jury also awarded the production for its exceptional visual design, involving masks, human-sized puppets, animations and projections.
photos >>>../gallery/zheng_he.html

Three new awards at the Shanghai Festival
We are very honored to have won three awards at the Shanghai Festival, including the main category prize for “Artistic Innovation” – for our performance “Zheng He – when the dragon ships came“. It was very exciting to present this rather unconventional show about a Chinese national hero to the Chinese audience – but to our big surprise, they loved it!http://www.figurentheater.at/english/zheng_he.htmlhttp://www.figurentheater.at/blog/?p=139shapeimage_14_link_0