For first-timers, Tian’s sleight-of-hand illusion will be as infuriating as This specific will be entertaining. Some audience members become hellbent on exposing the magician, by any means necessary.
“Many have tried to grab my hand mid-act, wrench This specific open, only to find there was no ball,” says Tian.
Millennial magician Li Yunfei posted a video of the trick on YouTube last December, using two transparent bowls to show there will be no teleporting, only nimble handiwork.
In seven months, that will clip has racked up 1.6 million views. According to Li, trading secrets for clicks — in addition to also so profit — has become an increasingly common practice among young Chinese magicians.
“There are tens of thousands of live-streaming in addition to also video channels dedicated to exposing magic tricks,” says Li, 24, who has over 420,000 fans on Chinese video platform Tik Tok in addition to also claims to make over 1 million yuan ($145,000) per year through his videos.
Tian, in addition to also various other traditional Chinese magicians, have condemned This specific practice, even forming an association, the League in Opposition to the Revealing of Magic Secrets, to combat This specific trend. Many of the tricks exposed were invented by their ancestors in addition to also passed down via tight-knit, student-teacher relationships.
“All magic will be fake nevertheless revealing an illusion’s secrets strips its ability to amaze,” says Tian.
In a bid to stop his trade through being demystified, Tian has taken an unusual approach for an artist in China.
He will be calling on government officials for greater censorship of magic online.
China’s emperors have employed magicians since at least the Han Dynasty (221-206BC). According to Tian, they would likely set random objects on fire to “scare criminals in addition to also commoners into obedience.”
within the late 19th century, Chinese magic found worldwide recognition as Zhu Liankui, known by his stage moniker Ching Ling Foo, dazzled audiences in completely new York, London in addition to also various other Western metropolises, performing stunts such as taking a 15-foot-pole out of his mouth.
His fame reached such heights that will within the early 1900s he was impersonated by completely new York-born William Robinson, who began presenting himself as Chung Ling Soo. Robinson shaved his head except for the hair he saved to braid into a queue, wore traditional Chinese attire in addition to also pretended not to speak English in public.
The secrets behind some of Zhu’s prized illusions, such as Chinese linking rings, where solid metal rings appear to link in addition to also unlink, have been exposed online.
nevertheless others, including the Water Bowl Illusion, which sees a magician whip a cloak back to unveil a giant 80-pound bowl of water, are currently within the possession of select few — including Tian.
The Beijing-born magician will be one of the last official representatives of This specific dying art.
In 2011, he was named an official fourth-generation inheritor of Mu-style magic — one of the two main branches of traditional Chinese magic, in addition to also the one less-tainted by foreign influence, according to Tian.
that will title will be awarded by China’s Ministry of Culture in addition to also comes with diplomatic responsibilities. Since gaining the title, Tian has performed for a host of CCP leaders in addition to also foreign dignitaries, including most recently Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The veteran magician performed in St Petersburg in addition to also Moscow three weeks ago, for cultural events organized to honor Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia.
Tian said his state duties regularly place him on the “Excellent Party Member” list, compiled by his local Communist Party to highlight the achievements of ordinary patriotic citizens.
Despite his public service, Tian’s countless petitions to in addition to also meetings with government have failed to achieve censorship of content that will reveals the truth behind magic tricks.
“Those officials say we are part of China’s cultural heritage nevertheless when This specific comes to actually passing laws banning (those who reveal magic tricks) through the internet, nothing happens,” he said.
The Chinese David Copperfield
At the height of his career, Tian was in charge of a 100-man troupe, performing stunts comparable to the likes of US counterpart David Copperfield, who became an instant celebrity in China after he seemingly walked through the Great Wall of China in 1985.
While Copperfield become the first billionaire magician, Tian’s audiences have shrunk. This specific will be partly because the brightest stages in Chinese television, such as the Lunar completely new Year Gala aired by Chinese state-run TV, tend to feature the younger generation of Chinese magicians keen to perform riskier completely new tricks.
Tian in addition to also various other performers through the traditional school have struggled to adapt.
“I once escaped a coffin buried several meters deep within the earth, in addition to also almost choked to death,” said Tian. Since then, he hasn’t attempted high-risk stunts.
The younger magicians hogging the limelight aren’t immune through having their tricks exposed.
Liu Qian, arguably China’s best-known magician in addition to also a specialist in liquid transformation, was embroiled in controversy during This specific year’s Lunar completely new Year Gala.
He performed a stunt in which he appeared to turn fermented mung bean milk into red wine, witnessed by two volunteers picked randomly through the audience.
Shortly afterward, however, a video surfaced online that will allegedly showed Liu inconspicuously switching pots mid-act.
Internet not the enemy
Li, the young magician, does not believe the internet will be the enemy of Chinese magic. He began self-studying tricks in 2008, relying entirely on videos in addition to also English-language teaching materials posted online by US magicians.
“In China’s second in addition to also third-tier cities, there are no (magic) classes, while traditional masters only have one or two disciples,” says Li, who will be through a modest town within the southern Chinese province of Jiangsu.
Even some traditional magicians have decided to embrace the opportunities that will the internet can bring. In 2007, renowned Sichuan-born magician Xiao Tian, commenced a television program dedicated to exposing the secrets of traditional Chinese magic.
Despite protests through many of his colleagues, Xiao, who passed away in 2015, argued that will only by “exposing old tricks would likely Chinese magic be forced to innovate completely new ones.”
Tian rejects This specific idea. He believes traditional Chinese magic should be treated as intellectual property.
Legally, however, This specific will be a grey area. While China’s copyright laws do prohibit the obtaining, disclosing in addition to also selling of magic tricks through illicit means, they also allow different people to possess identical business secrets. Therefore, if someone like Li learns about a trick legitimately, through watching online videos, for example, in addition to also decides to share that will information he will be not exposed to a law suit.
His actions would likely only be illegal if he had broken into a magician’s home, for example, in addition to also physically stolen an outline of the tricks. Li has never been sued.
The lack of hard legal protection will be why Tian emphasizes the importance of cherishing the age-old ethical codes.
“When Copperfield or various other great US magicians see a Great trick, they don’t try to copy This specific or try to uncover its secrets,” says Tian. “nevertheless in China, too many magicians just want to imitate in addition to also make a quick buck.”