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Under no illusions

By Zhang Zihan (Global Times)

08:36, April 27, 2012

Recently awarded Magician of the Year by the US-based Academy of Magical Arts, Taiwan magician Liu Qian (also known as Louis Liu in Taiwan), has been compared to some of world's most famous performers in the craft and former winners of the accolade, including David Copperfield and David Blain. The award given to the 35-year-old showman signifies how far magic has come in the Middle Kingdom. It has evolved into an increasingly popular form of entertainment in China, where top rated magicians earn top dollar. However, development of homegrown magicians has been uneven, with a series of problems under the glitzy surface threatening to turn the industry into a disappearing act.

2008 was a significant year for young magician Wang Chen, who won the top prize of "Golden Card" at the International Magic Competition. The following year, Liu made his highly anticipated debut at the China Central Television (CCTV) New Year's Gala, dazzling more than a billion viewers with his act. "Magic has been regarded as a performance art for a long time, but only as a sideshow," said Wang, who sometimes performs up to three times daily. "It was not until Liu's success in 2008 that people in China began to talk about magic with greater interest."

Nowadays, magicians are among the most in-demand performers and their acts have gone from simple illusions to expensive, death-defying feats. Wang noted he can earn more than 10,000 yuan ($1,586) on busy days. While this might sound impressive, Liu as China's indisputable No.1 magician and a regular performer in Asia, Europe and North America, can earn up to 10 million yuan each month.

Despite the prosperity of the industry and crop of young talent rolling up their sleeves to perform tricks, the celebrity power of Chinese magicians seems to be the biggest draw card. Liu, who didn't participate in last year's CCTV New Year's Gala, inadvertently dealt a blow to other magicians, who experienced a slump in business.


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