Magic Trick: The Chinese Rice Bowls

The trick begins by the performer handing out for examination two empty China bowls. When they are returned to him he fills one with rice from a bag, and stands it on a table. Then he places the other, mouth down, on top of the first. A moment later he removes it, and to the surprise of the audience it is found that it, too, is filled with rice which rises in a heap and overflows the sides of the lower bowl, as shown in Fig. 140. This rice is removed till it is level with the brim of the lower bowl which is still full. Then the lower bowl is again covered with the other. Picking up both bowls with his two hands, so as not to disturb their position, the performer holds them for a second, and when he separates them once more, the rice has disappeared and one bowl is overflowing with water, which he pours from one bowl to the other. The audience are again allowed to examine the bowls, which will be found to be without preparation of any kind.

Fig. 140 The bowl with rice overflowing.

In concluding the performer picks up a metal vase or jar, and pouring into it the water from the bowls covers the mouth of the jar with a piece of paper. Touching a lighted match to the paper it disappears with a flash. Then the performer turns over the jar and it is found to be empty, the water is gone.

For this trick the necessary properties are as follows:—

I. A bowl, about the size of a porridge bowl. The edges of this bowl are ground perfectly flat. Fitting over the mouth is a disc of transparent celluloid about one-sixteenth of an inch larger in circumference than the mouth of the bowl, outside measurement. When the bowl is filled with water and the disc is laid on top, the bowl may be turned upside down without the slightest danger of spilling its contents. The edges of the bowl, however, ought to be moistened beforehand. Careful attention must be paid to this as it is at the basis of the trick.

II. Two other bowls resembling the first in every respect.

III. A bag of stout manila paper, filled with rice. The bottom of the bag is turned in and upward, and although there is no actual partition it is virtually divided into an upper and a lower part. In this way, the lower part forms a space or cavity that is not seen by the audience and is large enough to serve as a hiding place or place of concealment for the bowl, A, which is filled with water and covered by the celluloid disc. In the illustration Fig. 141 part of the side of the bag is removed so as to show the view from the back: C is the bag; B the space or cavity at the bottom of the bag; and A, the celluloid-covered bowl. The bowl is resting on the tray, EE.

Fig. 141 Paper bag, with side broken away to show bowl underneath.

The bowl of water and its disc are placed inverted on the tray, with a match or coin under some part of the edge, so that the disc does not touch the tray. Without this precaution, should the tray happen to be wet, the disc might stick to it when the bowl is picked up.

IV. A metal vase, as shown in Figs. 142 and 143. This is divided in two parts, A and B, by a partition. If, holding the vase straight, the performer pours into it the water from the bowl it will run down to the bottom and when he turns the vase slowly in the direction of the arrow C the contents will flow into the side B instead of pouring out at the opening, and the vase will seem to be empty.

Fig. 142 The metal vase standing upright.

Fig. 143 The metal vase turned upside down.

V. A shelf, known to conjurers as a servante (dumb-waiter), at the back of the table, as shown at F in Fig. 144.

VI. A piece of flash paper, a nitrate of cellulose, somewhat like gun-cotton.

Before beginning the trick the performer fills the bowl A with water and covering it with the disc, places it, inverted, on the tray and stands the rice bag over it. He places the other bowls on the tray, one on each side of the bag. The back of the tray must be close to the edge of the table. The metal vase, also, with the flash paper near it, is on the table, toward the front.

The performer is now ready. Taking the two bowls he shows that they are without preparation of any kind, and hands them to the audience for examination. He then places them, inverted, next to the bag. At least this is what he appears to do. In reality he places only bowl B on the tray and bowl B1 on the servante F. Now comes the part that the performer must servilely follow in order to make the illusion perfect. At the very moment that his right hand places bowl B1 on the servante his left hand lifts the bag.

By this perfectly natural movement the performer shows the third bowl which had been concealed under the bag, as shown in Fig. 144. If these instructions are carried out to the letter the illusion will be perfect and the audience will imagine that they see the original two bowls. Taking bowl B with his right hand he fills it with rice that he pours from the bag, Fig. 145. The bowl he replaces on the tray, the bag he stands on the table. As there is more rice on the bowl than it can hold, the performer runs his wand over the surplus grains and removes them. Then picking up bowl A, always holding it mouth down and in a slightly slanting position so that his audience may not see the disc, the performer places it on bowl B, as shown in Fig. 146.

Fig. 144 Showing one hand lifting bag and the other putting bowl on servante.

Fig. 145

Fig. 146

Taking up both bowls and holding them horizontally before him on about a line with his chin, he turns them over so that when he sets them on the table again their positions will be reversed, and the bowl of rice will be on top. Slowly he lifts bowl B, and the rice falling on and over the disc will make it appear as if both bowls were full of rice. With his wand he levels the heap of rice, still leaving the lower bowl apparently full. This he covers with the empty bowl. Once more he lifts the bowls with both hands in a horizontal position, as before, then turning them upright, he removes bowl B and stands it on the tray, so as to get rid of the disc, which he took away with the top bowl. Then he shows bowl A full of water. Taking the bowl from the tray he pours the water back and forth from one bowl to the other. Finally he picks up the metal vase and pours the water into it, covering the mouth with the flash paper. Applying a lighted match to the paper, it disappears, and turning over the vase shows that it is empty.

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