From the 1990's to 2003 the author followed four marionette theatre companies in the Quanzhou area. Based on this unique fieldwork the author describes both the theatrical and social context of the marionette theatre. He shows it as a complex entity in which elements of religion, ritual, language, history and social structure all come together. The study includes an analysis of the companies' organization, libretti, music and puppets, as well as of the social and religous context of the performances and their ritual aspects. Its important insights into the functioning of a traditional form of theatre in the economically advanced region of southern Fujian provide a fascinating window on contemporary China.