Lu Chen has turned himself into a star magician with his sleight of hand. Photos provided to China Daily
The world of magic turns a shy, introverted boy into one of China's most recognizable TV faces. Li Mao reports
Two simple rubber bands cross the fingers of a slim young man. A second later, one passes through the other. Thirty-four-year-old Lu Chen has enchanted millions of viewers with his sleight of hand on CCTV's Spring Festival galas of 2009 and 2010, turning magic into a fad and himself into a pop star. Growing up in a family of non-magicians, and receiving no professional training, the self-taught Taiwan-based Lu is nothing short of a miracle himself. His interest in magic was triggered by a chance encounter in a department store. The then 7-year-old Lu stood transfixed as he saw a clerk doing some tricks in a section of the store stocked with magic-related stuff. He began stopping by the store every night after school. Touched by his interest, the clerk taught him some tricks.
Lu then went on to teach himself by reading books and watching videos. The young man proved his talents by picking up the gold at the Taiwan Youth Magic Competition at 12, receiving the award from his idol, the world-famous magician David Copperfield.
Later, he was invited to participate in the Las Vegas and Hollywood magic shows, two of America's most acclaimed, becoming the only Taiwan magician to receive the honor.
But it was CCTV's Spring Festival gala, a must-see for every Chinese on the eve of the lunar New Year, that brought him to the attention of more than 1 billion Chinese.
"I was very excited when I was invited to the gala of 2009," says Lu, recalling the call from director Xia Yu, who saw him on a TV talk show hosted by the well-known Lu Yu.
Millions of viewers voted his performance as one of the best shows of the gala. However, becoming a professional magician was not the first choice of the Japanese major graduate back in 1999.
"I had neither business experience nor the temperament for a 9 to 5 office job," Lu says of his fruitless hunt for white-collar employment. "It was then that I decided to look at magic as a career option. At least, magic was something I had been involved with for more than 10 years."
None of his teachers or his family supported him. "How can a university graduate like you think of becoming a magician?" Lu recalls a teacher saying when told of his plans.
Luckily, success in several world competitions gave him the confidence to persevere. But more than that, it was the sheer joy of doing magic that kept him going.
"I like to see the expressions of surprise and thrill on people's faces; it gives me a sense of achievement," Lu says.
"As long as people can imagine and have dreams, magic will live on."