And Finally

Magic formula

Meet China’s most famous illusionist

Liu: tricky bloke

“You are about to witness history in the making.”

Not, as it turns out, a reference to the ECFA, free trade zones or the growing rapprochement between Taiwan with China (see page 1). In fact, it’s one of the better known catchphrases of Liu Qian, now China’s most popular magician.

The Taiwan-born star hit the big time last year when he appeared on the world’s most watched variety programme – CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala Show.

One trick particularly stood out. Taking a wedding ring from a CCTV host, Liu then made it first disappear then reappear inside an egg, as revealed when he cracked it open, to gasps of audience amazement.

Sales of his book Liu Qian’s Magic Visa were soon topping the charts at online bookseller dangdang.com, and the magician got his own show with Hunan Satellite TV. He was also invited to reprise his act at the CCTV Gala Show in February.

All of this success has meant that the conjuror is not lacking in confidence.

“I am the most innovative magician in China for nearly 20 years,” he explained to the Morning Post recently, adding for good measure that he was clearly the “most handsome” trickster too.

One of a clutch of Taiwanese entertainers to make it very big in China, Liu started learning his trade when he was eight. Largely self-taught, he won a championship for child magicians four years later. He moved to the US shortly afterwards, where he won a key competition in Miami in front of an audience of 3,000. “I was moved to tears,” he told Shijiazhuang Daily.

Part of Liu’s success is the manner in which his shows move between the big stage and a more up-close-and-personal approach that sees him interact with members of the audience. In a low-trust society like China, there is a certain genius to such a formula: getting in among the masses means that they can see his magic feats with their very own eyes – and remain dumbfounded as to how he does it.

Liu’s popularity has been pivotal in rekindling China’s interest in magic – an artform that largely disappeared after Mao came to power in 1949. The country’s most famed magician previously was Ching Ling Foo, born in Beijing in 1854. Ching studied traditional Chinese magic and wowed audiences in the US in 1898. A favourite trick involved beheading one of his stage assistants, who then ambles off stage.

The Beijing Star Daily says Liu now has plans for a magic school, although evidently with a decidedly commercial angle.

“We will not only train magicians, but welcome workers too. For example, if you are a salesman, magic can help you communicate with your customer when you are selling your product.”


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