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Han Ping Chien

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The Chinese Wizard Han Ping

Chien Pekin Mysteries
By David P. Abbott
In this wonderful article David P.
Abbott gives us an account of Han
Ping Chien's stage act and
close-up performance and the
impact they had on him. Han Ping
Chien is the magician from whom
we got the Han Ping Chien move
for the coins through the table, still
used to this day and you will read
about the huge effect this trick
produced when first shown in
David P. Abbott's parlor. This
article shows how the Brotherhood
of Magic unites people of different
countries and races under one
common interest.
This article appeared in THE
SPHINX of August, 1916, and
February, 1949. Notes by John

When I saw Ching Ling Foo at the Omaha

Exposition some years ago, I thought his
paper-tearing was beyond my comprehension.
[NOTE BY J.B. -- The Trans-Mississippi
International Exposition was held at Omaha,
Nebraska, June 1 to October 31, 1898] In fact,
as I once stated in THE SPHINX, it seemed to
me that he actually did what he pretended to do.
I, with others, watched an entire evening, and it
seemed to me that the torn paper actually fused
together and was spun out something like a (1 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

spider spins its web. I could not conceive, after

his continual showing of his hands and fingers
during the performance, that it was mere art.
This also made a deep impression on other
performers in the land for soon after many
dealers sold "Ching Ling Foo Paper-Tearing"
tricks. But I can now confidently state that none
of them was correct. They were tricks, but their
methods were not Ching Ling Foo's. I had
never hoped to meet a magician from the Orient
that would prove to be his equal, but it has
happened. (David P. Abbott's explanation of
Ching Ling Foo's Paper-Tearing Mystery
appeared on pages 37-42 of THE LINKING
RING, September 1970 issue.)
Han Ping Chien was at the Orpheurn Theatre in
Omaha recently, with his "Pekin Mysteries Co."
(The date was week starting Sunday October
31, 1915. -- J.B.) Needless to say that I, with
other magicians of the city repeatedly attended
his performance. I think I can truly say that he
is, in every respect -- at the very least, fully as
good and finished a magician as was the
famous Ching Ling Foo. In fact, I doubt if there
be in all China any superior to him. In addition
to his magic, he is an all-around showman and
has been a juggler, an acrobat, etc., and in these
lines was among the very best. The young men
who are with him now, as I understand it, are
really taking instructions in their respective
lines under him. He speaks only a few words of
English; but I will say that he is a good-hearted,
whole-souled person and a polished and
cultured gentleman in the bargain. In our
present day language, "He is a prince."
He learned his magic from his uncle, who, in
turn, learned from his father. This gentleman
had learned from the grandfather, and he from
the great-grandfather, and so on back as far as
they can trace which is some six or seven
generations. While many magicians do the
same trick, each has his own method. As he
told me, there is nothing new in China, and all
magic is very ancient; but I must say they make (2 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

up for lack of newness in the perfection of

detail to which they have carried their art. I
have done many tricks and "got by" with them
and have thought that I did some in an artistic
and finished manner; but I must say that when
Mr. Han does a trick, it ceases to be a trick and
seems to become a reality -- a miracle, as it
were. This is especially true of his "close
work." I may mention here that in Chinese, the
names are reversed, the given names coming
last. Hence, in English, we would call him Ping
Chien Han, or P. C. Han.
His "back drop" was a gorgeous piece of
Chinese embroidery featuring two tigers of the
jungle. His embroidered robe, as well as those
of his assistants, was simply marvelous. From
the moment he stepped on the stage until his act
was finished, one was entranced. He first
stepped forward and played a little solo on a
Chinese gong. This, in its simplicity of rhythm,
was really laughable, and when he solemnly
prefaced every trick with the same simple gong
solo executed in all seriousness, the audience
was convulsed. I may say that he knew the
humor of the thing himself, but gave no
evidence of this to the public.
His tricks on the stage were not very numerous,
and I shall describe the effects. He did the
paper-tearing, using a strip of varicolored
paper. He first showed his hands and fingers
empty and, taking the paper, he solemnly tore
this apart, saying "Two." Then he placed these
together, tearing their middle again and said,
"Four." Again he did it, saying "Eight;" but the
next time, when he tore them, he was at the
limit of his counting ability, so he hesitated and
said, "Two Eight," The crowd roared, and I
thought he did it on purpose; but I found out
afterwards that it was not affected, as he simply
had not learned to count further in English.
The assistant now held a clear glass dish, and
Mr. Han dropped the pieces into it, and the
assistant poured clear water over them from a
clear glass pitcher. He showed both his hands (3 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

and fingers thoroughly; then, taking two

chopsticks, he carefully lifted out the wet
pieces, took them in the tips of his fingers,
squeezed out the water, and then draw out the
strip restored and dry again, showing fingers
and hands when through.
He again played the gong solo; then, showing a
cloth back and front, he spread it on the stage
carpet. Appearing from under it stood a
pyramid of glass aquarium globes two feet
high. There were three globes, each full of
water and each nested in the top of the one
below it. I may mention that no floor trap was
used in this production.
He next played his gong solo as if summoning
the Invisible powers of the air, and then he took
a roll of green ribbon about one and a half
inches wide. Holding the ends, he tossed the
roll from him, unrolling it as he went. It proved
to be two strips of ribbon rolled up. He took
hold near the middle, with the tips of the thumb
and first finger of each hand, holding the hands
about one foot apart. An assistant now applied a
lighted candle to the middle between the hands,
and it took fire, burning the ribbons in two. He
then took all four ribbons in one hand (the left),
and spread the burning ends around over his
clenched hand. He gave the ends of two ribbons
to each assistant as they stood one to each side
of him. He next exhibited his right palm and,
taking the ends of the ribbons in it, he exhibited
the left palm. He now took the ends in his left
palm and taking a fan from his collar with his
right, he proceeded to fan his left; then, making
a rubbing motion with the left fingers, he
released the ribbons, which were again united
and fully restored.
Again he executed the gong solo, and he and
his assistants spread the large cloth on the floor
after first exhibiting it, and produced from
under it a number of very large bowls of water
and gold fish. I think his bowls were two feet
across and ten inches high. They covered these
again for an instant and vanished them. (4 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

He next did a truly fine act with the "Djago" or

"Yargo" Sticks after first regaling the ears with
the inevitable gong solo. Of course, to us, the
mystery was not so great in this; but the way he
presented it, and the great amount of Chinese
comedy which he and his assistants worked into
it "brought down the house." I may say that,
while the principle is simple, he has some great
improvement of his own on the mechanism.
Again the musical interlude, and he closed with
the famous Chinese Marble Trick. This is a
truly wonderful trick. He passed an
inch-and-one-half size white marble into his
anatomy almost anywhere, but it always came
out of his mouth. He showed his mouth open
and empty, then rubbed the marble into one
hand. The assistant grew suspicious and
examined the other hand finding nothing, and
then examined them both; and the marble was
utterly gone. Then he said while laughing,
"Mouth the marble have;" and in the midst of
his laugh, blew it out of his mouth and caught
it. He repeated this over and over with many
variations and much comedy, always showing
the mouth empty and blowing the marble from
it without any approach to it of the hands.
He would plainly place the marble on his
person anywhere, giving it a rub and it would
be gone, but as he said, "Always the mouth
come out." This, with wonderful juggling and
acrobatic work, completed his stage show.
I sent word to him that I would be pleased to
meet him. I hardly expected a response as I
know the reticence of Oriental magicians; but
up he came to my office with several of his
troupe. He had an interpreter with him, and I
found them jolly fine fellows. They had not
heard of me, or in fact, of any American
magicians in particular, the reason, I suppose,
being their limited English. I accordingly
invited them to my home, and that night
showed them my latest creations, including the
Talking Kettle with loud climax; the Skull that
works without mechanical contact; Globe (5 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

Levitation with all of my latest effects for it; the

Loud Speaking Daylight Trumpet; and my new
Telepathy act and also my Spirit Reading act,
both the latter without signals or sounds.
To say there was some effect on these men who
had seen only ancient magic, is putting it
mildly. But I must admit that he got even with
me, when he came to doing close work for me
and my friends. I have witnessed many good
tricks, but when I saw him pass a handful of
coins right through my table -- and it apparently
was actually done, and no trick -- my eyes must
have stuck out. I had him repeat it three times,
then I telephoned for other magicians to come
and help me, but it was no use. But for his
kindness, I would still be wondering. As a
sample of his natural wit, when three of us
magicians stood around him to watch him
perform this trick, he pointed to each of us in
turn saying, "One magish, two magish, three
magish. Me half magish."
Then he took the Cups and Balls. There is no
use for me to try to describe his truly marvelous
effects. I cannot do it. I thought I knew all of
the moves, sleights, passes, etc., and could
follow the thing; but after a number of
performances and his kindness in showing me, I
gave up and was satisfied just to watch and be
deceived. I asked him how long it took to
accomplish this. He said, "If young, three years
-- two hours a day. If old, "never." So where the
back hand palm takes six months, this classical
trick, as he produced it, takes three years. But in
his hands it seemed not to be a trick; and then
he said, "No good. Too little." He meant it
could not be seen by a large crowd. I will say,
however, that were it possible to buy the ability
to perform it as he does, I would gladly pay one
thousand dollars for the gift.
He showed me the marble work. He did not
have the marble with him so he took an English
walnut. He placed it in his mouth between his
teeth, then removed his hands. I looked in his
mouth but it was utterly gone. There was no (6 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

doubt. It simply was not there. Then he blew it

out. He performed the Linking Rings. He threw
the rings from him, and they returned as
hoop-rolling performer's hoops do; and he
linked them as they returned. He threw them in
the air and linked them as they fell. I could see
him turning or sliding the key ring around and
around in his work, so that it proved it was no
key. He formed all kinds of figures including an
Aeroplane with its propellor, wings, rudder,
etc., all moving and flying along. He never used
the three (rings) linked together at all. Merely
used the key, the two linked and three plain
rings, Next, he unlinked over his head, and over
his knee, and in his mouth while he made a
strange sound; then suddenly, one ring was
passed through his mouth and out through the
cheek, (the while) howling in Chinese so
comically, that, as they say "It would make a
dog laugh." Then he removed it from his mouth
and showed it was no key and right here I tell
you this last was an art.
He does the Fire-Eating, and a veritable
volcano of fire comes from his mouth as it did
in Ching Ling Foo's case; but at any stage of
the trick he can open his mouth and you may
examine the interior by both feeling and sight,
finding it entirely empty; then, without
approach of hands, he will again blow great
flames from his mouth. Between flames you
can always see that his mouth is really empty.
These are the facts, and he does not have to eat
paper shavings or anything in order to produce
the fire. He merely opens his mouth, permits
examination, and then blows out the flames.
He was so well pleased that he got a "week off
" and returned and spent a week with me and
was at my house. It is marvelous how much
magic we managed to go over, with his limited
vocabulary of two or three dozen English
words, and with drawings and signs; but we
drew pictures and pointed to objects and got
through very well. He took my new things all to
China with him, so that he is the only one in (7 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

Han Ping Chien

China who has all my latest things. Ching Ling

Foo has a kettle only, and I think these are all
that I shall send into that country. (8 of 8) [4/23/2002 4:05:36 PM]

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