"It was a hoary bit of mock-Chinese flummery from the heyday of Ching Ling Foo"

Ching Ling Foo (1854–1922), born Chee Ling Qua, is credited with being the first modern East Asian magician to achieve world fame. Foo was born in Beijing, and studied traditional Chinese magic.  Foo brought his show to the United States in 1898. His performance involved conjuring a wide variety of objects from under a cloth spread upon the stage, including a huge bowl of water said to weigh eighty pounds, a pair of live chickens, a live lamb and a bowl of goldfish. He was also a fire-eater - able to "blow immense clouds of smoke and flashes of flame" from his mouth, according to a review in the The New York Dramatic Mirror, June 3, 1899.