The puppetry major at Shanghai Theater Academy has proved to be a dark horse this year with 1,380 students vying for the 18 places on the course — a more than 70 percent increase over last year.
Launched in 2004, the major is a collaboration between the academy and Shanghai Puppet Theater. A time-honored art in China, puppetry is on the list of the nation's intangible cultural heritage.
Officials from the academy said that with China's efforts to preserve and revive traditional culture, the puppetry major had received growing interest from candidates in recent years.
Qin Feng, a teacher of puppetry at the academy, said many people had changed their views of the art.
"Puppetry used to be thought of as a simple folk art and skill, but indeed it is an imaginative and dynamic theater art that goes beyond the boundaries of language, age and country," Qin said.
The major offers a comprehensive curriculum covering puppet art, stage acting and directing. Students of the major will be Shanghai Puppet Theater's talents reserve but they can also choose to work as actor, director or producer in showbizz in general.
Peng Yuchang, a puppetry graduate, stunned audiences with his performance on the popular reality show "The Making of An Actor." For many young people it was the first time they had appreciated the art.
Puppeteers in the city are sparing no effort to revive and innovate the art form, in order to cater for the tastes of a wider audience.
In 2015, Shanghai Puppet Theater staged a multimedia shadow play production of the timeless fable "Mulan." The show was hailed by both children and adults.
In 2016, Qin Feng and his students narrated Shakespeare's "Hamlet" through puppets. The show was honored at the 18th Shanghai International Arts Festival.
Last year, young local theater director Lu Yisha used elements of puppetry in her acclaimed children's drama "The Solar System."
"The art also has the potential to merge with other theater arts," Qin said.