Julie Eng, daughter of magician, Tony Eng didn’t expect the Victoria Chinatown Museum Society to contact her to make an exhibit about her father.
But almost nine months later (Dec. 7) the exhibit is open to the public at the Canadian Chinese Museum in Victoria.
“My mother had just made some moves to sell the house. She has lived there for 50 years and so we had this cellar that had been sealed up for 15 years since my father passed away in 2008,” said Eng. “So, I opened it up with my mom and my sister. We went through it and it was hard to believe that so much stuff had been left there exactly as it was when my dad first passed away.”
Born on 1946 and raised in Victoria, Tony Eng’s fascination with magic began at the age of eight when he received his first magic kit and then started performing magic shows at age 12. He became a fan favourite when he performed every Sunday at Japanese Village for two decades.
Embracing his Chinese-Canadian heritage, the magician created a distinctive show called, Mysteries of the Orient which is performed in an embroidered mandarin’s robe. His skill and talent made him renowned in the Canadian magic circle where he was known as the Ambassador of Magic.
Tony Eng’s entrepreneurial skills enabled him to run a successful wholesale business and establish the Premier School of Bartending. He also started up his own Tony’s Trick & Joke Shop in Victoria which was a fantasy emporium of wizardry and gadgetry where he inspired and mentored many young up-and-coming magicians for years.
“I think it’s always so wonderful to hear stories of a significant individual within the Chinese-Canadian community,” said Grace Wong, board chair of the Chinese-Canadian Museum. “Tony Eng was a magician so beloved by the community and was really a legend.”
Growing up it became normal for Eng to see her father’s straight jackets on the back of dining room chairs or swords at the end of the stairs on the brawley bass. Now 15 years after her father’s passing she thinks about him through a different lens.
“Being able to go back and know all that stuff as an adult, to see how hard he worked, how often he worked, the range of work he did, where he was, and finding old artifacts I had forgotten about, but it was all there exactly as we left it. So it was really nice to have this opportunity to bring it out, polish it, and bring it new life,” said Eng.