The Sutradhar and the Ringgit: A Study of Terms Related to the Early Puppet Theatres

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Sino-Platonic Papers is pleased to announce the publication of its three-hundred-and-thirty-second issue:

The Sutradhar and the Ringgit: A Study of Terms Related to the Early Puppet Theatres,” by Keith Rawlings.


Certain words in Sanskrit, Old Javanese, and Ancient Greek that appear in centuries-old texts are thought by many scholars to be early references to puppetry, leading to certain theories about the history of that art. These particular words from antiquity and the Middle Ages and their interpretations and translations underpin currently received views about the antiquity of puppetry. This paper discusses the history of the related scholarship, examines varying interpretations of the words, and suggests other possible meanings, leading to questions about their interpretation. I hope to show that, because words in earlier eras of a language may have different interpretations from those accepted later, texts and the scholarship that relies on them should be re-examined in the light of current knowledge.

This and all other issues of Sino-Platonic Papers are available in full for no charge.

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Selected readings



  1. Taylor, Philip said,

    April 12, 2023 @ 11:23 am

    Is there any connection between the ringgit as discussed in the paper and the ringgit as the unit of Malaysian currency ?

  2. Keith Rawlings said,

    April 20, 2023 @ 4:35 pm

    Hi Philip,
    Perhaps yes. In my paper (p. 27), I mention that other meanings of the word 'ringgit,' besides 'puppet or dancer,' is 'milled or serrated,' and 'jagged or toothed.' So the word 'ringgit' in Malay could refer to both cut-out leather puppets and milled and serrated Malaysian coins. Note also the word 'rupee' in India means a form of currency and the Sanskrit word 'rupa' means 'image' or 'form,' plus it is also sometimes used to mean 'puppet,' e.g. 'camma-rupa' (p. 19).

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