Magical sparks

Barry C Chung

A small coin trick and a big-name magician put Lu Chen on an unusual career path

Barry C Chung |

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As a child, Lu Chen read every book about magic he could find.
For days, a young Lu Chen could not sleep. The incident kept playing in his mind over and over again. How did she do it? How did the coin disappear into thin air?

"When I was eight, I went to a department store with my aunt," recalls the Taiwanese magician, now 35. "The woman behind the counter did a demonstration. That was the first time in my life I saw magic. It was a coin trick, and it was amazing."

From that moment on, Lu was hooked. Magic had found its way into his heart. He'd spend countless hours thinking about tricks, delving into books, articles, anything he could get his hands on to find out more about the art. He started with simple tricks and worked his way up to more complicated ones.

It wasn't until four years later that a life-changing moment armed him with the confidence to pursue a career in magic.

Lu was competing in a local magic competition. It was a high-profile event, and the judge was one of the biggest names in magic: none other than American David Copperfield. The stars were aligned that day, and Lu won.

"When I was a child, I was nothing special," says Lu. "I wasn't strong or smart or anything. But this competition - the first prize - told me I could do something better than others. This is my gift. It was the first time I felt that.

"Having David Copperfield and his team in front of you, and performing in front of them, no magician has this experience - let alone a 12-year-old," he adds.

When Copperfield handed Lu his award, he said: "You did a good job."

"I think if I didn't win, I would've stopped doing magic. It gave me confidence," Lu says.

After university, Lu began to perform professionally. At the time, his parents did not approve of his career choice.

"My parents thought I was crazy," he says. "In Taiwan, people would say, 'Poor you. You don't even have a real job.' My parents thought magic was OK as a hobby. But as a job? That's something different. I said, 'Give me one year. Let me try.'" They agreed, and his career exploded shortly after.

Today, Lu is the foremost magician in Asia.

Many of his tricks are formulated in dreams, as are many of the solutions, which he immediately jots down in a notebook. For two years he'd been trying to figure out how to place a ring inside an egg. One night it appeared to him in a dream, and the trick was included in his 2009 performance on CCTV New Year's Gala show (Fast forward to 4:18 to see the trick).

There are still tricks Lu hopes to perform one day. For instance, since watching the Japanese horror film The Ring, he's been infatuated with the illusion of walking out of a television set.

"I think it's possible. I'm almost there."

Knowing Lu, it shouldn't be long before we see him walking out of our televisions. For now, though, we'll just have to see what he has up his sleeve this week, when he performs in Hong Kong.

Lu Chen performs at Star Hall, Kitec, on April 20-22