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Weaving their own magic

By Eric Jou (China Daily)

15:18, June 05, 2013

Chinese magician Mr Black (Liu Shijie) gets ready to make a dove disappear. (China Daily)

Every trick in the magician's repertoire has three acts, and it seems that China's magic industry is waiting for its final act. Eric Jou pulls some interesting facts out of the hat.

It is generally known that a magic trick is broken into three parts: the pledge, the turn and the final prestige, inside knowledge exposed by Christopher Nolan's 2006 movie, The Prestige.

In the pledge, the magician tells his audience what he's about to do, either make a ball disappear or make the bunny vanish. Then he performs what he promises, an act named the turn. Finally, he makes the object re-appear in the last part of the trick, known as the prestige.

If it is broken down like the parts of a magician's trick, China's burgeoning performance magic industry is waiting to return to the forefront of the spotlight. Unlike magic shows in the West, magic performances in China tend to be either part of a television program or part of an acrobatics variety show.

While magic and magic-related performances have been part of China and Chinese history for a very long time, Western-style magic performance didn't take off until relatively recently, in tandem with other Western influences. It was helped off the ground when Taiwanese magician Liu Chen performed on China Central Television's Spring Festival Gala in 2009, according to Lin Lei, show runner for Shenzhen Satellite TV.

"When Liu Chen first appeared on CCTV's Spring Festival Gala, it created a wave of interest that resulted in almost every TV station trying to create its own magic variety show," says Lin, who helped establish one of the first magic variety programs for broadcast in China in 2009. The show, Citizens' Magic Mirror, was telecast on Dongnan Satellite TV until 2010, launching the careers of many magicians across China.

While television became the main stage for Chinese magicians to perform, Lin says that it also reflected the stunted growth of the magic industry.

"Right now, magic in the eyes of traditional television media is out of fashion," Lin says.

It was mainly due to the lack of independent platforms and channels to perform that magicians in China attached themselves to acrobatics troupes. In fact, the trade association for magicians is currently listed as a sub-section under the Chinese Acrobatics Association.

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