Magician quits Lantern Festival gala over Leehom joke

2013-02-22 08:39:13 GMT2013-02-22 16:39:13(Beijing Time)  SINA English
Magician Lu Chen (right) and pianist Li Yundi perform during China Central Television's 2013 Spring Festival Gala in Beijing on February 9, 2013. [Photo: CFP]Magician Lu Chen (right) and pianist Li Yundi perform during China Central Television's 2013 Spring Festival Gala in Beijing on February 9, 2013. [Photo: CFP]
Pianist Li Yundi (left) and singer-songwriter Leehom Wang perform during China Central Television's 2012 Spring Festival Gala in Beijing on January 22, 2012. [File Photo: CFP]Pianist Li Yundi (left) and singer-songwriter Leehom Wang perform during China Central Television's 2012 Spring Festival Gala in Beijing on January 22, 2012. [File Photo: CFP]

By Jia Xiaoguang, Sina English

Taiwan’s famous magician Lu Chen (Liu Qian), who has recently been embroiled in an online dispute with pianist Li Yundi over a joke about pop singer Leehom Wang during the 2013 Spring Festival Gala, announced via his agent on Feb 21 that he would be absent from China Central Television's (CCTV) Lantern Festival Gala due this Sunday.

According to his agent during an exclusive interview with Chinanews.com, Lu has been so deeply vexed by the incident of late that he decided to “take a break” in the hope that he would be spared from future offense and criticism.

The agent denied that Lu’s exit was due to his poor relation with CCTV. He also appreciated the understanding and support by Ha Wen, the chief director of the upcoming gala.

The Fallout of the Leehom Joke

CRIENGLISH

When magician Lu Chen teased his co-performer Li Yundi during the 2013 Spring Festival Gala, hosted by China Central Television on February 9, probably no one foresaw that the joke would become one of the hottest topics of the month in China.

Lu Chen's performance was called "The Magic Piano", in which he incorporated piano elements into his magic trick performance. Li Yundi, an internationally celebrated pianist, played the piano and interacted with him throughout the illusion.

In what seemed like an orchestrated gesture, Li Yundi stopped playing and tried to whisper something to Lu Chen. The latter then came out with a line that immediately amazed the audience, stating, "Looking for someone? Who? Get Leehom!"

Viewers found the line amusing because it played upon a rumored gay relationship between Li Yundi and Leehom Wang, the Chinese-American musician and actor, despite both stars having denied the rumor.

Li Yundi and Leehom Wang collaborated on a piano performance at the previous year's gala. This year, they performed separately.

After joking about Li Yundi, Lu Chen proceeded to say, "Sorry, sorry, this year it's me." The performance then continued as normal.

In China's weibo microblogsphere, people quickly responded by calling the joke a major flashpoint of the show. A number of weibo users said they witnessed Leehom Wang slapping Lu Chen backstage.

A war of words between Lu Chen and Li Yundi ensued as an online debate was triggered as to whether Lu Chen's joke was pre-planned or not.

One week after the show, Lu Chen's publicist released a statement saying that the decision to mention Leehom Wang was suggested by Li Yundi's side in the first place.

Li Yundi soon denied the claim, writing on his weibo microblog that he never voiced any suggestions as to what Lu Chen might say during the show.

As fans continued to seek the truth, some weibo users noticed the reactions taken by Leehom Wang. On his weibo, Leehom Wang first denied hitting Lu Chen and even referred to him as his "buddy". Days later, Leehom Wang deleted Li Yundi from the list of accounts that he followed, but Lu Chen's account was kept. Li Yundi also deleted Leehom Wang from his list.

Lu Chen recently announced via his publicist that he would be absent from China Central Television's Lantern Festival Gala, which is scheduled to take place on February 24. He originally planned to explain his "Magic Piano" tricks during the Lantern Festival Gala.

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