Oral Stunts: The Art of Sound Illusion

Explore the mesmerizing world of ventriloquism, where performers use oral skills to create the illusion of music and voices, captivating audiences with their artistry.

In the village, a young woman arrived, approximately in her mid-twenties, carrying a medicine bag, selling her medical skills and medicines. For those who came for treatment, this woman didn’t prescribe medicines herself; instead, she waited until evening to ask the gods to provide prescriptions. When evening came and it was time to prescribe the medicines, the woman would tidy up a clean little room and lock herself inside.

A crowd gathered around the door and window, leaning in to listen attentively. Each person could only whisper quietly, afraid to cough loudly. Inside and outside the house, everything was silent. It was close to midnight when suddenly the sound of lifting curtains was heard. A woman inside the house asked, “Has Sister Nine arrived?” Another woman replied, “She’s here.” Then she asked, “Is Sister Lamei here with Sister Nine?” It sounded as if a maid answered, “Yes, they’re here.” The three of them chatted incessantly. After a while, the curtain hooks moved, and the woman inside said, “Sister Six has arrived.” Someone interjected, “Did Chunmei bring her little baby with her?” A woman replied, “This stubborn child! He refused to sleep and insisted on coming with his mother. He’s so heavy, weighing about 180 pounds. He could crush someone!” Following this, there were sounds of the woman attentively serving, Sister Nine asking questions, Sister Six exchanging pleasantries, two maids comforting, and the laughter of children, creating a noisy atmosphere. After a while, the voices gradually died down. The curtain rustled again, and the room was filled with noise. Someone said, “Why did Sister Four arrive so late?” A young woman softly replied, “The journey was over a thousand miles, and it took a long time to reach Auntie’s place. Auntie was slow.” Then there were murmurs of concern and the sounds of people adjusting their seats and adding chairs. It went on like this, with the room filled with conversation and movement, until it finally quieted down after a meal. At that point, the woman asked about the medicine for the illness. Sister Nine thought ginseng should be used, Sister Six preferred astragalus, and Sister Four advocated for white atractylodes. After some discussion, they heard Sister Nine calling for someone to bring writing materials. In no time, there were sounds of paper folding, pen caps being removed, ink grinding, and pens touching paper. Later, there was the sound of pens being put down on the table and finally the rustling sound of packing medicine. After some time, the woman opened the curtain and called the patients to come and get their prescriptions and medicines. She then turned and entered the room. Following that, they heard the voices of the three sisters bidding farewell, the voices of the three maids bidding farewell, the muffled laughter of the children, the meowing of the cat, all happening at once. Sister Nine’s voice was clear and melodious, Sister Six’s voice was slow and aged, and Sister Four’s voice was sweet and graceful. Combined with the three maids’ voices, each had its own distinctive quality, and one could easily distinguish who was speaking. Everyone was amazed, thinking they had truly encountered immortals, but after taking the medicine the woman prescribed, there was no remarkable healing effect. It was simply a form of ventriloquism, used to promote her medicines. Nevertheless, her ventriloquism reached a remarkable level of skill.

Once, Wang Xinyi mentioned that he had passed by a marketplace in the capital city. He heard the sound of someone playing the qin and singing, and a crowd of onlookers had formed a wall around the performer. As he approached, he saw a young man singing melodiously in time with the music. There were no musical instruments; he simply used one finger to tap his cheek. As he tapped, he sang, and it produced a resounding “clang” similar to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. It seemed to be a skill of a similar nature to ventriloquism.





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