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May 31, 2011

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China's sure got talent - Or does it?

NEW acts

Lightning Man shocker

High school student Lu Yulong, a "science genius" and seemingly a magician, produces and controls crackling blue lightning that seems to emanate from his body and fingers - in protective clothing.

Lu, who wears a black cloak and glasses and dyes his hair, claims he can control thunder and lightning.

The teenager from Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, produces the electricity with his home-built Tesla coil. (A Tesla coil is a type of resonant transformer circuit invented by Nikola Tesla around 1891. It produces high-voltage, low-current, high-frequency alternating current electricity.)

In the exciting and risky perform-ance, it seems that Lu can touch electricity.

Before he got interested in physics, Lu was interested in organic chemistry. But a lab explosion years ago put him in the hospital for a few years and required 400 stitches. But he didn't give up on science and says he would rather die than not experiment.

"I hope one day I can invent and design my own Tesla coil buildings that can transmit safe electrical power to light bulbs and other items all over the world without the need for wires," he says.

Having a crystal ball

While music plays, Asian-American street performer Hu Qizhi manipulates a crystal ball slowly and makes it roll along his fingers and arms. It appears weightless.

Flag pole acrobat

Wang Zhonghua, a 32-year-old Shanghai gym coach is not only a bodybuilder but a gymnast of amazing strength.

He's not big and tall but he is powerful and flexible, with great core strength. He attaches himself horizontally at a 90-degree angle to a pole, maintains that position and then mimics the movement of a flag flapping in the wind at 90 degrees.The gravity-defying movement is extremely difficult for even professional gymnasts.

Just plan weird

Some contestants have left the audience in awe at what seem like impossible stunts, but these feats are also very controversial because they're so bizarre.

Lady with boar teeth

Xue Qiaoping performs shuaya, literally teeth playing, in which she manipulates four to six pairs of animal teeth (like fangs or buck teeth), each 5-6 centimeters long, in her mouth and makes unusual patterns.

The delicate, 30-year-old woman first performed the stunt - a skill in regional opera - while wearing male opera costumes and the audience was stunned when she removed the costume and revealed herself as a comely lady in a pink dress, not a fierce warrior.

Xue, from Ninghai, Zhejiang Province, says the tooth-playing is a fading art in a 400-year-old regional opera. Once it was only taught to men, but today there aren't enough men who want pigs' teeth in their mouths, so Xue and a few other women decided to take on the challenge.

"My mouth has been hurt many times by the sharp ends of the teeth," Xue says. "Ten years ago my first boyfriend broke up with me because I refused to quit the art. I have not had a real boyfriend since then."

Every day she practices for hours. She says she's taking part in "China's Got Talent" to help promote and preserve the "art form," which is understandably on the verge of extinction.

Although Xue advanced to the next round, judge Zhou Libo advised her not to destroy her life in the name of art. Members of the audience and Internet users called the stunt dangerous, frightening, savage and lacking aesthetic value.

A talent to choke on

Tang Kangmin, a 23-year-old Shanghai medical student, puts a metal whistle down her throat and produces a high-pitched whistle song - another dangerous dying art. She can sing Chinese folk music at a high pitch using that device, which she can also expel so she doesn't choke.

Her father, a folk music enthusiast, urged her to take up the throat whistle, as well as other instruments.

"I am actually living out my father's dream by practicing this dying art," Tang says. "Each time I perform, I am in danger of swallowing the metal instrument.

Long hours of practice also hurts her lungs, she says, but even when she has a fever she doesn't stop - she doesn't want to let her father down.

"I know my responsibilities, but I feel from the depths of my heart that I really want to become an ordinary girl," she says.

Many netizens say they are touched by Tang's dedication, although they don't like the shrill sound. They say her father is too harsh and says Tang has the right to be herself and decide how she wants to live. Stories

Love defies family 'nos'

Not everyone in the audience wants talent, lots of people like human-interest stories.

When the married couple Xi Yue and Zhang Haijun from northern China performed a strange dance involving throwing green onions around, the audience and the judges were bored.

But the judges learned that Xi used to be a college major in vocal music, while her husband Zhang is a street vendor with little education. Then Xi performed a beautiful folk song and the audience was in awe.

She says she married Zhang despite family opposition and has helped him in his trade over the years. They couldn't afford a wedding ceremony and wedding rings. Although friends and family say she sacrificed her chance for a career and good life as a college graduate, Xi says she doesn't regret her decision. "In fact, we're the happiest people in the world," she says.

While Xi was singing, her husband, clad in a Spiderman costume, stood by and could not hold back his tears. Xi advanced to the next round; Zhang bowed to the judges and audience and gave her wife a hug, thanking her for her support over the years.

The couple's story and videotaped performance have been posted on microblogs of many celebrities, such as actress Li Bingbing and Ady An.

'Rain man' savant

Military veteran Cai Dinglun from a suburb in Chongqing Municipality regained his confidence and got a new lease on life through the show. Dubbed China's "Rain man" (after the 1988 movie staring Dustin Hoffman about a genius savant), 31-year-old Cai can instantly tell the number of strokes in a complicated Chinese character.

Cai says that his sensitivity to character strokes isn't inherent, and perhaps it is a "gift" from a traffic accident in early 2005, after which he was diagnosed as mentally retarded.

"I want to tell the people of my town that I am not an idiot, I am a genius," he says. He says he is considering seeking a Guinness World Record for his talent.


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