For the past two days, the Chongqing Economic Times has been reporting breathlessly about a local man who, when furnished with a basin of water and three towels, can make money appear as if from nowhere:
The name of this marvelous performer is Yang Degui (杨德贵). He is forty-seven years old and comes from the town of Xintian in Wanzhou District. Yesterday morning, at roughly eleven o’clock, several dozen city residents waiting on the 19th floor of the Xiya Hotel, as they had been instructed. After Yang arrived, one local went to buy a ceramic basin and three towels, and a staff member set up an empty table. Before the performance, reporters and the other locals in attendance inspected the basin and towels, and a reporter took out four newspapers and conducted a thorough examination of the table. When nothing out of the ordinary was discovered, Yang took off his shirt, and handed the money in his trousers to a spectator for temporary safekeeping.
Under the supervision of the camera and several dozen city residents, Yang tied a red rope to the window, closed the curtains, and half-closed his eyes as he murmured something. At 11:40, an experienced local extended his hand into the basin, and then Yang asked someone to drop a ring of keys into the basin. Then the performance began.
This reporter witnessed in person, before 50 seconds had passed, a local fishing out 200 RMB, to gasps from the audience. At 11:45, a reporter for this paper sat down across from Yang and put his hand into the basin. Yang told him to press on the basin bottom. A hush fell over the crowd. After murmuring a few words, Yang put a hand into the basin, and then forcefully clapped the reporter’s hand and told him to feel around in the water. Seventy-two seconds later, the reporter felt pieces of paper brush against his thumb. He pulled them out: two 100-RMB notes.
The article, written by a senior writer for the paper with the assistance of an intern, reports that other spectators followed suit, pulling out sums of up to 8,300 RMB at a time. Yang also produced Euros, US dollars, coins, and ration tickets. The secret? It might have something to do with alcohol:
This reporter noticed that Yang Degui drank continuously as he demonstrated his unique skill, and the sums of money retrieved from the basin increased each time he drank. “My master can drink 2.5 kilos. Sometimes he performs normally after drinking at lunchtime.” One of Yang’s disciples said that Yang drinks to liven things up.
Yang says that he is not performing magic () but rather the art of escape ( ):
So can he use the money he helps escape in this way? Most certainly not, he says. The master who first taught him the art warned him that after learning it he could under no circumstances turn to the dark side. “The money that’s escaped today has to be sent back,” Yang said. However, this reporter only saw him send back 300 RMB at the scene. He said that the remainder would be returned within three days.
Today’s paper followed up on the story with more hype from the pen of the senior journalist, who reports that experts from Germany and Japan are waiting in Wuhan to study Yang’s skills in person. The article also offers an informed opinion from a domestic academic:
Professor Shao Linxiang of the College of Chemistry and Life Sciences at Jiangxi Normal University has seen Yang Degui perform his “art of escape” three times. “I personally provided the basin, water, towels, and newspaper.” Shao told this reporter that he studies cellular biology, and he believes that Yang’s performance is “genuine. Real skills,” acquired through tough training, but not magic. “At present, science has no clear explanation.”
There’s another possible explanation for Yang’s performance, or at least the Chongqing Economic Times‘ press coverage: both articles note that a Chongqing-based website has put up a 100,000 RMB reward for the first person to unlock his secret.
Yang has been stunning local press for quite some time. A previous television special (embedded below) features him producing bills and coins from a basin covered by two towels and several sheets of newspaper. Amazing? Convincing? Entertaining? At all worthy of being included on Wanzhou’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, as reported by the original Chongqing Economic Times article? Decide for yourself (the actual performance begins at around 2:30):
- Chongqing Economic Times (Chinese): Wanzhou man creates 30,000 RMB out of thin air, Follow-up: Foreign experts await Yang Degui in Wuhan
- Video also available directly on Tudou.