Mark’s Research Proposal

I plan to research about how Western magic shows influence the magic performances in China. I will be watching performances of David Copperfield, one traditional magic show in ancient time China, and magic shows/interviews from a popular modern time magician: Lu Chen (刘谦). I will watch these shows through Youtube/Youku and hopefully they will have resources for someone performing typical ancient time Chinese magic shows. My preliminary hypothesis would be that in ancient time China, the magic shows are mostly about the difficulties; the more difficult the performance is, the more appreciated the magic is. Examples would include swallowing swords, eating fire… more like stunts. In these cases, even if you discover the “trick” behind it, you still think they are really great because of the difficulties needed to master the skills. At the same time, Western magic shows are more about the magical moments, showing miracles, realizing impossible things right in front of your eyes, despite the difficulties. I would like to see how Chinese magicians switch gears from purely chasing the difficulties to making miracles come true.

The hypothesis of the influence from Western world comes from the interview of Lu Chen. I added this interview in this post, the part of how Lu Chen said about the differences between the Eastern and Western magics starts from 1:41. (Also a trial to see if the media function works)

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Topic: what are some of the factors affecting the development of modern magic shows in China?

  1. Chinese history
    In Qing Dynasty and before, the social status for magicians are low. They need to ask for money from the passers-by. That is why they are focusing on skills, close-up magics, and need to keep talking.

    Typical Magic Performance Context in Ancient China

  2. Western influences
    The social context for magicians are highly respected. People enjoys magic shows like listening to operas.

    Magicians in “The Prestige”. End 19th century.

    David Copperfield is one of the most representative magicians in the Western world. Western magicians emphasize the use of professional magical props.

    David Copperfield Walking through The Great Wall in Beijing

  3. The success of the magician Lu Chen and modern television shows
    In modern world. Nowadays, people don’t believe the magic shows on TVs anymore because of the technologies. It becomes more of a talk show kind of tv shows. It is fun to watch how people react to the magic.

    Magician Lu Chen’s Street Magic

    Videos: Traditional Western and Eastern Magicians perform the “Chinese Linking Rings”

Linking Rings from Western performer Paladino [0:10 – 0:40]

Traditional Chinese Linking Rings performance [0:29 – 1:13]

Argument 2: The success of the Taiwanese magician Lu Chen.