Feature: Magicians present "China Week" at Hollywood Magic Castle to celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year

by Xinhua writers Tan Jingjing, Gao Shan

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- A full house of audience watched solid coins vanish under poker cards and reappear, and experienced mind reading as they were inspired by the narratives of a young Chinese magician at the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

The 23-year-old Jeffrey Wang performed his breathtaking card trick just inches from the audience, as he welcomed them into a unique world of infinite possibilities.

Wang is among the 14 Chinese magicians that presented a "China Week," a week-long magic show from Jan. 23 to 29 at the Magic Castle, home of the Academy of Magical Arts and a clubhouse for magicians and magic enthusiasts, in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

The pointy-headed Gothic Renaissance mansion looms in the hills above Hollywood. Hidden doors, private rooms, live performances, and even a mystical owl that opens a secret door from the foyer to the interior of the castle -- visitors are thrilled at the secrets hidden inside the most magical and exclusive venue in Los Angeles.

It was the first time the castle organized a "China Week" in celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year since its founding 60 years ago.

"I have had this idea (organizing "China Week") for many years," Dale Salwak, producer of "China Week" and director of the world-renowned Chavez Studio of Magic, told Xinhua.

He had been discussing the plan with Hu Jinling, another Chinese magician who participated in the magic show, and finally worked out the plan of presenting week-long magic performances by Chinese magicians during the Chinese Spring Festival.

Hu, gold medal winner of the highest award of Chinese acrobatics -- the "Golden Chrysanthemum Award," said the "China Week" served as a great platform to strengthen exchanges between Chinese and Western magic communities.

Magicians from China and the United States spent half a year to make preparations for the "China Week," carefully selecting candidate performers and reviewing their performances, Hu told Xinhua.

"The 'China Week' is a window that shows the skills of Chinese magicians, and reveals the elegance of the Chinese culture. The Chinese magicians have integrated many elements of Chinese culture into their magic performances," said Hu, also deputy director of two associated organizations under the China Acrobats Association, a non-governmental organization of professional acrobats from across China.

"We have been talking about magics, a universal language. It's important that the Western world sees magicians from other parts of the world," Salwak said, adding that the Asia continent, particularly the Chinese mainland, has very rich and magical talent.

For many years, Salwak worked with his partners to bring representative Chinese performers to various conventions in the United States to broaden their opportunities overseas.

The Chinese Lunar New Year, also the Year of the Rabbit for 2023, is an appropriate occasion to bring together Chinese magicians, and let people in the Western world see their magical skills, Salwak told Xinhua.

For Wang, currently a senior at the University of Southern California (USC) majoring in math, performing at the Magic Castile offered him a great platform to show his talent and share experience with other magicians.

The young man showed great interest in magic in his childhood, and started learning magic performance at the age of six.

"I hope that through my performances, the Western audience could learn more about China and the profound Chinese culture," he told Xinhua.

Matt Felten, one of the audience sitting in a private theater at the castle for Wang's show, was cheered up by his performances.

"Wang was very brilliant, and he did a wonderful job in managing the audience," said Felten, who teaches courses on Acting Shakespeare as well as Magic and Performance at the USC.

Magicians of different countries have different styles and ways of presenting magic shows, said Felten, also a magician, adding it is a very good opportunity to experience the charm of Chinese culture through Chinese magicians' performances.

The "China Week" won cheers and applauses from the audience. The week-long show attracted more than 4,000 visitors.

"China has a long long history of circus, acrobatics and arts. The magic has involved and developed in China from those traditions," Salwak said.

"What I respect about the Chinese magicians is not only their self-discipline, their respect for the art, but also their incredible creativity, new ideas, and new expression of the old. You add that to the excitement of their personalities and the novelty of bringing their magic to the West," he told Xinhua.

"It's a winning combination all around," Salwak said.

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