Monday, December 22, 2008

Ching Ling Foo

Ching Ling Foo was born Chee Ling Qua in 1854, Beijing, China. He studied traditional Chinese magic and he moved to United States which he became a headliner in vaudeville following a successful career in his native China.

In his performance, he breathed smoke and fire, produced ribbons and a fifteen foot long pole from his mouth. He caused a sensation when he took an empty piece of cloth, produced a huge bowl, which the bowl full of water, and then pulled out a small child!

In New York, he was offered a reward of $1,000 which a great deal of money in those days to anyone who could produce a bowl full of water like he did. He did it for publicity and he never actually meant to hold a contest, but American magician William Robinson didn't know that.

On the other hand, Chung Ling Soo was the stage name of American magician William Robinson. He was inspired to take the name by the work of magician Ching Ling Foo. William Robinson was a New Yorker which he came from a Scottish family who sometimes worked by himself as a magician, but also worked on-stage and built props for other magicians such as Harry Kellar, Adelaide Herrmann and Alexander Herrmann.

Not long after that, Ching Ling Foo refused to let William Robinson try for the $1,000 reward, Robinson went to Europe with a new Chinese-style show of his own and recreated himself as Chung Ling Soo, a Chinese magician. Robinson called himself as "The Original Chinese Conjurer." Even offstage, he was also known as Chung Ling Soo. When the press wanted to interview him, he brought an "interpreter" because he claimed not to speak English.

From the newspaper stories, many European believed that he was a Chinese. However, after a few years later, Robinson's make-up was removed at the hospital due to a fatal performance of the bullet-catching performance. Since then, the public found out that he was not a Chinese.

Andrew Loh

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