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Topic: Authentic Chinese cups & balls routines
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 10, 2010 09:54PM)
Looking for written sources of authentic Chinese cups & balls routines (whether translated into English or not).
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 10, 2010 10:44PM)
That reminds me of an awfully non-PC line on the first Kingston Trio album. ;)
Message: Posted by: lint (Jun 10, 2010 11:32PM)
Hi Fortasse,
An interesting topic. I am sure you are familiar with Joe Berg's routine. There are a few others that have the name Chinese in the title but since Magic went through such a fascination with all things of the orient in the past it is tough to tell what is authentic and what isn't.

One of the reasons I have nearly ceased trying to complete a cups & balls bibliography is because I cannot dig into the foreign language routines to document them. I am sure China has some wonderful old conjuring books. I would be interested in when a cups routine first showed up.

-Todd
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 11, 2010 07:54AM)
Thanks, Todd. I'm familiar with the Joe Berg "Chinese" routine. I rather suspect that the only thing Chinese about it is the name....decidedly occidental, it seems to me.

S
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 11, 2010 10:43AM)
Fortasse,

How would you be able to tell that a particular routine had a Chinese origin? I am tabula rasa when it comes to authentically Chinese magic, so this is a simple question, not a challenge.

Thanks!

Woland
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 11, 2010 11:02AM)
I know that there are some early routines that appear in Chinese literature, or at least that is what I have been told.
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Jun 11, 2010 01:23PM)
A two bowl routine with RICE BOWLS, much like Takagi's.
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 11, 2010 06:35PM)
Woland :

Bill is right. If you have Chinese texts of authenticated antiquity and they contain descriptions of cups and balls routines that have no discernible connection to any known routines in western literature or the literature of other specific countries, it's not unreasonable to assume that those routines are indigenous to China. I've been told that there are such ancient texts and I've even been promised a copy of one of them which, of course, I would have to get translated.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 13, 2010 12:04AM)
Fortasse,

Documents like that would indeed represent authentically Chinese routines. I would accept such a source even if there was evidence of foreign influence. And if you have been promised such a manuscript, then Bob's your uncle!

I am wondering if Needham's Science & Civilization in China does not contain a section on conjuring as one of the performing arts; it seems to encompass everything else . . . The Needham Research Institute in Cambridge might be worth contacting.

Woland
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 13, 2010 05:44AM)
Thanks, Woland. I'll check it out.

Fortasse
Message: Posted by: Dale Houck (Jun 13, 2010 08:49AM)
[quote]
On 2010-06-11 19:35, fortasse wrote:
Woland :

I've been told that there are such ancient texts and I've even been promised a copy of one of them which, of course, I would have to get translated.
[/quote]

My wife is from China. Unless you already have a translator, she could do it. I find it interesting that while Cantonese and Mandarin speakers can't understand each other (unless they know both dialects) they have the same written language. It's my understanding that the Japanese written language originated from the Chinese written language as well, but has changed significantly over the centuries.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 13, 2010 08:58AM)
Dhouck,

That's a very generous offer.

The Chinese written character is a very interesting method of writing. It was imported into Japan and Korea under Chinese influence many centuries ago. In Japan, it has been largely supplanted by a system of about 100 syllabic characters, although most educated people can still read Chinese characters. If I remember correctly, it takes a knowledge of about 3,000 different characters in order to read a newspaper, but educated Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans can read newspapers from any one of those countries, provided they are written in characters.

In Korea, the Emperor Sejong the Great ordered his scholars to devise a phonetic alphabet about 500 years ago. They hated doing it, the story goes, because they felt that a phonetic alphabet was a token of barbarianism. However, it is good to be the king . . .

The Korean alphabet didn't gain wide currency until it was used by Protestant missionaries to spread the Bible. In fact, the Chinese character is a rather ineffective tool for representing the Korean language, which is very different grammatically even thought almost 60% of Korean words are loan words from Chinese. The Korean alphabet is a brilliant alphabet and can be learned, with a bit of application, in a day. Almost all Korean words are phonetically spelled, and there are very few silent letters. With the introduction of foreign loan words from European languages (i.e. English) there are a few tricks representing sounds that are absent from the Korean language (like "f"). In South Korea, educated people are still taught about 2,000 Chinese characters, and some of the newspapers occasionally use them for a word or two here and there in order to give an air of intellectual class. But in North Korea, the use of Chinese characters was abolished entirely.

I hope that fortasse finds the manuscripts he is looking for soon!

Woland
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 13, 2010 11:29AM)
That explains a lot. The North Koreans have "characters" of their own. ;)
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Jun 13, 2010 12:47PM)
Woland... you sure are a fountain of knowledge... a "belated" welcome.
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 13, 2010 02:32PM)
You can certainly say that again, Pete! Thanks, Woland, for your very illuminating contributions. And thank you, Dale, for your very kind offer. I have a Chinese translator standing by already if the promised text ever materializes (which, frankly, I'm now beginning to doubt).

Will keep you all posted.

Fortasse
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 13, 2010 05:56PM)
Mr. Biro, Thanks for the recognition. I don't know very much, but perhaps what I know differs somewhat from what may be known here, and if so, I am pleased to contribute it.

By the way, I am reminded of a very interesting Chinese film, called "Bian Lian" or "The King of Masks," concerning the ancient street-performance art of rapidly changing face masks that depict characters in the Chinese opera (in less than a second). It was quite a heart-warming story.

It makes me think that there must be in China a very developed tradition of street magic performance that must include C & B routines.

I hope that you are successful, fortasse, in uncovering some of the beauties of that tradition.

Woland
Message: Posted by: lint (Jun 13, 2010 06:36PM)
I have "The King of Masks" qued on my Netflix streaming. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 13, 2010 06:39PM)
I just looked at the last 10 minutes on YouTube.

You will love it.

It may be more for the "Side Walk Shuffle" than here, but it is great.

The sleight involves the instantaneous changing of a mask -- up to a couple of dozen times.

Woland
Message: Posted by: nornb (Jun 14, 2010 01:32PM)
Hello,

"Chinese Classic Illusions Magic"
Chief Editor: Chen Runhua
Authors: Fu Qifeng Xu Qiu
Translator: Wang Zhiwei

ISBN 978-7-5059-6390-0
Published in 2009, Launched at FISM2009 Beijing has some information on a range of Chinese magic.

The Chinese term for Cups and Balls is Bowl and Beans (The Immortal Sowing Beans)
The book is Bilingual (Chinese at the front English at the back). I haven't studied the book properly yet, I find the language a little difficult to follow.

This is a book on magic, written and produced in China concerning traditional magic.

http://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?hl=en&sl=zh-CN&u=http://www.anibook.cn/ProductDetail/2009/08/14/PBA97875059639000001.html&prev=/search%3Fq%3DISBN%2B978-7-5059-6390-0%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-US%26rlz%3D1I7DKUK_en&rurl=translate.google.co.uk&usg=ALkJrhitDmpLpfmGZYHyKdbnHvDtPmubgA

Abbots may have produced a booklet on traditional Chinese magic at one point, I do not have my notes to hand. There is a gentleman in Singapore (I think, no notes again,) who has been collating lots of information on tradition Chinese magic. I will try and guide him to this thread.
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 14, 2010 06:03PM)
Nornb :

Thanks much for this. I'll be sure to check it out.

Fortasse
Message: Posted by: epoptika (Jun 14, 2010 09:24PM)
Woland,
Very interesting info on Asian alphabets.

Do you, perchance, have any idea how they did/do the typesetting for Chinese newspapers? I would imagine it is an easier undertaking in the age of computers but I've always wondered about this whenever I see newspapers in an Asian language. (Also wondered if they have the equivalent of typewriters?)
Message: Posted by: jazzy snazzy (Jun 14, 2010 09:55PM)
[img]http://i169.photobucket.com/albums/u203/jazzysnazzy_album/chinese_typewriter.jpg[/img]
Guess you put the paper in sideways.
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 15, 2010 08:33AM)
Epotika,

Typesetting characters is very challenging, but can be accomplished because the tens of thousands of characters can be written (or typeset) and organized on the basis of their components. That is, most of the characters are built up out of a more limited number of basic strokes. It is those basic strokes that would be displayed on a keyboard, and by typing them in the right order, a character could be constructed. It is easier with computers, because the computer can guess which character you are constructing, and aid the process.

In Korean, words are written as a series of syllables, and the letters in each syllable are organized so that it will resemble a Chinese character, rather than an alphabetically written word. As you type on the keyboard, the letters are first displayed in a linear fashion, but as the computer realizes which word you are typing, the letters are grouped together in a syllable.

I don't know anything at all about typesetting or computer keyboards in Japanese.

The Thai alphabet seems much more difficult to me.

Woland
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 15, 2010 08:30PM)
Just how does one go about accessing (or, failing that, constructing) a bibliography of cups and balls routines native to mainland China? I seem to be drawing a lot of blanks. There must be a substantial body of Chinese literature on this particular subject but if there is, I'm no closer to discovering it.

Fortasse
Message: Posted by: lint (Jun 15, 2010 08:43PM)
Fortasse,
I recall a VHS tape titled Oriental Mysteries by Quin Ming Xiao teaching (among other traditional Chinese magic) a cups and balls routine. My Google searching is turning up nothing though (If I remember I saw the tape on eBay long ago).

Regarding your question on how one goes about discovering traditional routines from China. How does one do it for any language they are not native to? I ran into this as a roadblock many times in my research. I think the only way is to hire research assistants that are knowledgeable in the area you are interested in. A pricey endeavor. I even requested a research grant from the Conjuring Arts Institute but was denied at the time I requested.

The Cups, being as old as they are in this art we enjoy seemingly provide an endless search for those of us who love the routine.

-todd
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 15, 2010 08:51PM)
If the film "King of Masks" presents an accurate picture of a Chinese street performer in the first third of the 20th century, the major part of the knowledge of traditional Chinese performance practices would have been passed on from master to disciple directly, and within a family. So there may in fact not be as extensive a written literature as we would like to uncover, and much of that very possibly written by outsiders. (Unless I am mistaken, Mr. Palmer has concluded, analogously, that Reginald Scot was not a performer of our magic.)

Woland
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 15, 2010 09:44PM)
If you're proven right about China, Woland, I suspect the same may be true for Africa as well where the oral tradition has been dominant.

Todd, thanks for the lead about the tape. I'll check it out. I agree, of course, that I have to depend on those who are conversant with Chinese languages to conduct this kind of research. That's what I've been doing......and I'm still drawing blanks.....but still plugging away.

Fortasse
Message: Posted by: Pete Biro (Jun 16, 2010 01:07AM)
I think I may have the Quin Ming Xiao video. Will look tomorrow.
Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (Jun 16, 2010 02:24AM)
I could be wrong about this, but it's very possible that the "Quick changing Masks" that are noted in Chinese and Japanese opera are more related to the performing arts (traditional Japanese and Chinese musical operas/dramas) than to performing magicians. There are different traditional opera companies who travel all over doing there shows wherever they can. I saw these all over Taiwan during my time there. I would always try and stop and take a look for a while and cheer them on. They are most often called upon during auspicious times of the religious calendar or also at funerals funnily enough. If the deceased was a big fan of traditional opera, the family may call a troupe to come and perform at the home of the deceased.

They generally live in their large transporters which double as their stage, dressing area, make up etc. Sort of like a gypsy style of life. Many or most of them have been in the troupe for most of their lives, and travel with their kids and the "Band" as a lot of the sounds and effects are done live, along with a backing track of the main music. It's all very old world, and something to admire and encourage. It's all too unfortunate that due to the advance of electronics and cable TV, and more modern forms of entertainment, many of these troupes are having to fold due to a lack of opportunity and ways to support their lifestyles.

Of all the Chinese magicians I met, none of them did traditional "Chinese" magic, though they all do some form of the rings. I only knew one that did the cups and balls. It's also unfortunate that most of the local Taiwanese magicians are basically copying the routines they see the more famous western magi perform.

I'm also a bit skeptical about finding older chinese manuscripts with routines for the cups and balls. (OH one other thing, if you are looking to get them translated into English, make sure you have someone who can read the older traditional Chinese characters. The characters in use now are "New Chinese" and have been quite simpified from the older ones. Young Chinese people in China now, could not probably read the older characters.)
Message: Posted by: nornb (Jun 16, 2010 02:28AM)
Hello,

Bowl and Beans (Cup and balls) Videos the links to whichwere supplied by Teh Ah Hock. These are on Chinese Websites.

Bowl and beans - you only need to watch first half of the 6 minutes (adverts)
http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/td4P7okj0uA/

Bowl and beans 5 Bean
http://v.ku6.com/show/ANmvsYo5hxdih8Vo.html


I know Mr. Teh Ah Hock through Facebook and the old FISM2009 Website.
He is very knowledgeable on Chinese Magic.
He has been unable to register here on the Magiccafe (something to do with his email address) however he has sent me some online links to video performances of the Bowl and Beans and other traditional Chinese magic.
Best regards.
Message: Posted by: karnak (Jun 16, 2010 09:58AM)
When I was a young kid in the 1960s and browsing (drooling) through my first-ever magic catalog (Top Hat Magic Company of Evanston IL, ordered from an ad in "Boys Life" magazine for the princely sum of ten cents), I recall seeing a catalog description therein for something called "Chinese Cups and Balls." Thought today I cannot recall the details, the effect was described at length, and it had me floored -- my only exposure to the cups and balls at that time was the quickie penetration (sorry!) routine that came with my cheap red/yellow/blue plastic Adams set, and this "Chinese" version sounded orders of magnitude more amazing. Of course, priced at an astronomical (for a ten-year-old kid) seven bucks, it was out of my range, so I never acquired that particular marvel... but I've always remained curious about that particular routine, if only for nostaligic reasons. Could this have been the Joe Berg routine someone mentioned in an earlier post? How does that one play out, or what's unique about his routine? I can find no information online about it, so would be grateful to learn a little more about these "Chinese Cups & Balls" that have piqued my interest for so long...
Message: Posted by: lint (Jun 16, 2010 10:00AM)
Great videos. Looks like you have some good leads Sean.
Message: Posted by: lint (Jun 16, 2010 10:04AM)
[quote]
On 2010-06-16 10:58, karnak wrote:
When I was a young kid in the 1960s and browsing (drooling) through my first-ever magic catalog (Top Hat Magic Company of Evanston IL, ordered from an ad in "Boys Life" magazine for the princely sum of ten cents), I recall seeing a catalog description therein for something called "Chinese Cups and Balls." Thought today I cannot recall the details, the effect was described at length, and it had me floored -- my only exposure to the cups and balls at that time was the quickie penetration (sorry!) routine that came with my cheap red/yellow/blue plastic Adams set, and this "Chinese" version sounded orders of magnitude more amazing. Of course, priced at an astronomical (for a ten-year-old kid) seven bucks, it was out of my range, so I never acquired that particular marvel... but I've always remained curious about that particular routine, if only for nostaligic reasons. Could this have been the Joe Berg routine someone mentioned in an earlier post? How does that one play out, or what's unique about his routine? I can find no information online about it, so would be grateful to learn a little more about these "Chinese Cups & Balls" that have piqued my interest for so long...
[/quote]

Here is a description from the booklet:

"EFFECT: Performer shows three cups and five small balls, placing the
cups mouth-down on the table. He then picks up one ball at a time from
the table and places it either on top or underneath a cup. The balls are
caused to seemingly disappear, reappear and to hop about in a very mysterious
and startling manner, until they all reappear underneath one of the cups."

Interesting note about this routine is it uses 5 balls which is starting to look like part of a "traditional" Chinese cup routine.

-todd
Message: Posted by: Woland (Jun 16, 2010 11:57AM)
Yes, both of those Chinese videos show the use of 5 balls. The geometric arrangement of the cups and balls at the beginning of the routine is also interesting.

Woland
Message: Posted by: lynnef (Jun 16, 2010 03:25PM)
Charlie Miller shows a Chinese cups and balls routine in a video for Stevens Magic. I don't know about authenticity, but he uses a small doll instead of a wand, and the cups allow for grasping the bottoms with just 2 fingers.
This video is very good by the way, featuring early Ammar, Johnny Paul and Mike Rogers and all hosted by Johnny Thompson!
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 16, 2010 09:04PM)
The routine for Joe Berg's Chinese Cups is available on the Conjuring Arts website. It does use five balls, but they are sponge balls, so at least part of that is not traditional.
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 16, 2010 09:37PM)
If any of you haven't checked out the Chinese C&B videos that Nornb posted on this thread, would strongly urge you to. They are outstanding. Incidentally, these Chinese routines and techniques appear to have very strong similarities to the Indian C&B.
Message: Posted by: Bernard Sim (Jun 22, 2010 05:56AM)
I did a google using Chinese Character and here's the results
http://www.google.com.sg/search?hl=en&rlz=1T4GGLL_enSG353SG354&q=%E4%BB%99%E4%BA%BA%E6%91%98%E8%B1%86&aq=0&aqi=g5&aql=&oq=%E4%BB%99%E4%BA%BAzhai&gs_rfai=
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jun 22, 2010 05:59PM)
Very interesting. Some of the techniques are very similar to the ones we use here.
Message: Posted by: Lawrence O (Jun 24, 2010 07:38AM)
There is a full routine with no text but just a long and detailed series of drawings in "Magic Around The World" and it's a good routine with tea cups and chop sticks. I've thought for years that it would be nice to do this with fake sushis (even if these are Japanese) of the kind that we get where we buy the fake fruits as large loads.
Message: Posted by: nornb (Jun 24, 2010 06:25PM)
Here are another two videos of Bowl and Beans,


Bowl and beans - red balls on red background
http://www.56.com/u11/v_MjEzMjk1Mjg.html

and

Another bowl and beans - 62 minutes! I have not been able to watch this one yet.
http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTcyMjYxMTQ0.html
Message: Posted by: Bernard Sim (Jun 25, 2010 02:48AM)
I was talking to a Chinese magician, he said the most difficult part of the routine is the patter.
If you understand Chinese, the way they patter is very interesting. They will talk in a fast but consise manner, describing where the ball is and what is happening. I have the "Chinese Classic Illusions Magic" book which I bought in FISM. Some of the classics are translated to English but the Bowl and beans were not translated.
Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (Jun 25, 2010 09:37AM)
The couple of clips I saw they were basically just starting out by proving that the bowls were not gimmicked and were just bowls. From there it was mainly just "I take this ball and put it here, then this ball I put here, and now that one is now over here etc etc". No story, just describing what they were doing. Maybe they felt that as the Chinese can be quite suspicious, they had to prove to the specs that the bowls were "Just" bowls and nothing more.
Message: Posted by: fortasse (Jun 25, 2010 09:54AM)
Jojo : That's interesting......quite unlike the usual approach to C&B here in the West where the conventional wisdom is that you shouldn't reduce your patter to simply describing what you're doing with the C&B.........."now, I take this ball here and put it under this cup here which you can see is completely empty"........we're always taught what a no-no that is. Interesting that in the Chinese C&B clips you're referring to, that may be all the performer is saying throughout.

Fortasse
Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (Jun 25, 2010 09:13PM)
Maybe Bernard can chime in here about their patter, but that was it really. I was a bit surprised, but most Chinese magicians I knew liked to do silent stage acts. Most close up guys I knew, (In Taiwan anyways) would do the same really, just describe what they were doing and rely on the reveals and endings to carry the magic.

The little Indian boy performing the Indian cups (a thread a few months ago)was doing the same routine basically as these Chinese magi, but had a cute patter to his routine. Simple for a boy and very suitable for his character. In my opinion much more fun to watch and enjoy.

JoJo

ps. I'll check out a few more and see if they are the same.
Message: Posted by: Al Kazam the Magic Man (Jun 25, 2010 09:58PM)
Another bowl and beans - 62 minutes! I have not been able to watch this one yet.
http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTcyMjYxMTQ0.html

I just took a look at this one and in my opinion it's not worth checking out for a couple of reasons. The recording quality is quite poor with a bunch of the screen where the action happens blurry with a huge date stamp on it as well. He's doing the same thing, just a few simple effects with no patter or story line to very little response or reaction from the crowd.

Just to clarify, there is a whole bunch of acts on this clip. Interesting, but not really high on the entertainment scale. IMHO anyway.
Message: Posted by: Bernard Sim (Jun 27, 2010 12:37AM)
The patter they use actually describes what they are doing with the ball. Like what JoJo said "I take this ball and put it here, then this ball I put here, and now that one is now over here etc etc".
They talk in a fast speed at times and it is not boring at all even though they are describing what they are doing. They also have fanciful names for their moves.
Message: Posted by: Bernard Sim (Dec 14, 2010 08:23PM)
Found another video. About 13 mins routine. http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/yChnBwFQYj4/
Message: Posted by: malaki (Apr 20, 2018 03:50PM)
[quote]On Jun 13, 2010, Woland wrote:
Dhouck,

The Chinese written character is a very interesting method of writing. It was imported into Japan and Korea under Chinese influence many centuries ago. In Japan, it has been largely supplanted by a system of about 100 syllabic characters, although most educated people can still read Chinese characters. If I remember correctly, it takes a knowledge of about 3,000 different characters in order to read a newspaper, but educated Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans can read newspapers from any one of those countries, provided they are written in characters.

In Korea, the Emperor Sejong the Great ordered his scholars to devise a phonetic alphabet about 500 years ago. They hated doing it, the story goes, because they felt that a phonetic alphabet was a token of barbarianism. However, it is good to be the king . . .

Woland [/quote]

The same thing happened in China during the Yuan Dynasty, under the rule of Kubilai Kahn (12711368). Because the Great Kahn ruled over such a vast empire, he had a Pahgs Pah priest devise a script that was based upon phonics, as a first step toward a universal language. The Pahgs Pah script was created specifically to fit these needs, outlined by the Great Kahn. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and in spite of repeated proclamations of this being the official script to be used in all empirical writings, no one ever wanted to use it. This was probably because the script looked very much like a collection of square mazes, making it difficult to read. Examples can be seen in a copy of National Geographic, in an article telling of the Great Kahn's attempted navel attacks on Japan (where/when the term kamikaze, or "Divine Wind" originated). Thus is why the east still does not have a common script/language.

As a side note, I have created a paddle effect that features this unknown bit of history in it's patter.
Human nature is a stubborn beast.