Ching
Ling Foo:

America's First Chinese Superstar


On the eve of the 20th century at the height of anti-Chinese xenophobia and the China Exclusion Act, Ching Ling Foo, one of the greatest illusionists ever seen on American soil, along with his talented family of Chinese musicians and acrobats overcomes on stage attacks, headline generating deportation attempts, homeland tragedy, crooked managers and a diabolically clever American copycat to make an indelible impact on American culture becoming the highest paid and most popular act in the United States twice! First, between 1898 and 1900 then once more between 1912 and 1915 when they did it again!

"FOO"tells the incredible story of the Foo troupe's rollercoaster ride to unprecedented fame and luxury private railcar riding fortune. The excitement of the 1898 World's Fair, turn of the century Broadway, the Boxer Rebellion, the bizarreness of early 1900s vaudeville, the 1905 London World Championship of Chinese Magic,and an adorable bilingual toddler who transitions to teenage ragtime sensation. All this plus international intrigue, nativism, and industry ending technological disruptions. Ching Ling Foo: America's First Chinese Superstar has it all!



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Praise for Ching Ling Foo

"Ching Ling Foo, the charismatic Asian magician, transfixed American audiences and established a taste for Asian culture and Asian skills. He was a superstar. And he was, as Porteous makes clear in this fascinating new biography, a truly great and truly versatile wizard."


- Jim Steinmeyer, described by the New York Times as the “celebrated invisible man—inventor, designer, and creative brain behind many of the great stage magicians of the last quarter-century”, is also one of the field’s preeminent historians and author of best-selling books about magic and magic history.

Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation lists Ching Ling Foo biography as "recommended reading".


- (AIISF) raises awareness of the experience of Immigration into America through the Pacific. AIISF collects and preserves the rich stories and personal journeys of thousands of immigrants, and shares them with visitors and everyone living in America through education initiatives and public programs. Angel Island Immigration Station reminds us of the complicated history of immigration in America. It serves as a symbol of our willingness to learn from our past to ensure that our nation keeps its promise of liberty and freedom.


Click here to discover AIISF recommended books that explore
the history of the Immigration Station and highlight stories from its past.

“Ching Ling Foo was long known as a successful Chinese vaudeville magician in early 20th century American, but his story was often discounted in favor of American competitors like Chung Ling Soo (Billy Robinson) who performed in Chinese garbs and using Chinese personas to achieve popular acclaim from an audience that seems not to have been able to discern the difference. Sam Porteous was perfectly positioned, being a Canadian living and working the arts in Shanghai, to remedy this gap in our knowledge. His remarkable book draws from news reports and other primary sources in America, Europe, and Asia to reveal not only Ching Ling Foo's background, family, and performance record, but his contributions to early Chinese film, his associations with mainstream performers beyond the magic community, and to place him firmly in the culture of the time. An important and engaging story. ”


- James Hagy (Jim is a distinguished lawyer and legal scholar who has also been a magician for more than 40 years. He writes and speaks regularly on the history and theory of performance magic, including a keynote lecture at The British Library (London).)

"Porteous provides a spectacular account of this artist"


- Frank Wu, author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, read his Book & Film Globe review here

"A biography of Ching Ling Foo was greatly overdue." "The book is a substantial one, at 478 pages, well researched and written, and with more than 850 endnotes, to make even the most fastidious historian thrilled." "Strongly recommended."



- Marco Pusterla, Editor Ye Old Magic Mag (December 2020, Vol. 7 Issue 1)