Herbal pharmacist aims to make magician's fasting record vanish

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 12:00am

'It's a piece of cake. I've even fasted for 81 days before but nobody was watching'

He may not be a magician, nor is he as photogenic as David Blaine, but Chen Jianmin, a 50-year-old Chinese herbal medicine pharmacist from Luzhou in Sichuan is set to challenge the American magician's record of fasting for 44 days.

'It's a piece of cake,' a confident Mr Chen boasts. 'I've even fasted for 81 days before. But unfortunately nobody was watching.'

He will rely on his knowledge of herbs and a mastery of qigong deep breathing exercises. He says he wants to top Blaine's fasting stunt to boost the traditional Chinese medicine industry.

'I just want to prove I can beat him and that we Chinese can do it without any difficulties.'

A local business has decided to put their money where Mr Chen's mouth is.

'We've signed a deal to sponsor a 49-day fast,' said Meng Hui, an official from a Chengdu-based property and hotel management firm.

The performance is scheduled to begin on April 9 in Bifengxia - a tourist resort managed by Mr Meng's Wanguan Group in Yaan - the heart of giant panda territory.

Mr Chen - who weighs 70kg and has no plans to bulk up before the fast - estimates he will lose about 12.5kg during the stunt.

He is still deciding what supplements will be in the water he is allowed to drink, although he did state that it would definitely not contain any sugar, fat or egg white.

Feng Zhiqiang, a director of the Chinese Association of Physiological Sciences told the West China Daily that he had faith in Mr Chen but had warned him about the risks involved, adding that it would not stop him.

Guinness World Records refuses to officially recognise fasting records because it regards them as 'life-threatening', though it does note a variety of achievements, including a 385-day hunger strike by a British prisoner.

Mr Chen plans to spend his 49 days in a transparent perspex box, much like the one Blaine was suspended in above London's river Thames.

Its exact dimensions are yet to be finalised.

But there will be one big difference: 'I wouldn't just sit there like Blaine,' said Mr Chen. 'I want to work.'

To allow this, three fixed-line telephones will be in the box with him, to allow him to communicate with patients from his clinic in Luzhou.

Mr Chen said money raised will be used to establish a non-profit hospital. 'If someone beats my record, I will do it again as I can fast for over 80 days,' he said.