Article on the Chinese Linking Rings

by Doug A  

Last Update  August 2006

Note: For an excellent buyer's guide to the Linking Rings, see the article by Joseph Capaul at Stevens Magic: Click on The Feature Story link and then the March 2006 article.

The Chinese Linking Rings is an effect wherein the magician takes rings of solid metal, and is seemingly able to link and unlink them at will. Although the secret to the linking rings is fairly well known (inexpensive versions have been available for years in beginner's magic kits), the effect has remained a classic of magic and is still performed today. I can remember watching magician David Tallent (of Dollywood's Magic Shop) perform the Linking Rings, and even though I knew how the effect was done, I was still fascinated at how real the penetrations looked, and at the good choreography he presented. 

The traditional Linking Rings effect uses a set of 8 rings, although versions have been performed with many different numbers, including routines using 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9 or more rings. Close-up magicians have gotten into the act and have made close up versions of the effect as well, using 4 or 5" rings. 

While I will not reveal the secret to the linking rings here (you can easily search on the Internet if you don't already know it), many of the advances in the Linking Rings has been to find new ways of producing the "key" ring that cannot be detected or that will fool those "in the know". As alluded to above, however, I think that the best defense against this knowledge is a good routine. 


Some of the older Linking Rings routines became known for the many "figures" that would be made with a set of 8 rings, such as The Rocking Chair, the Horse, and so forth. In today's TV mentality audiences, these figures can quickly become boring and should be limited in a modern performance of the Rings.

How many rings you use will depend on your own particular style. A three ring routine simplifies the performance, but puts more pressure on the key ring as it cannot be so easily "lost" amongst the other rings.

Some routines / products of note include:

General Rings: World's Greatest Magic Linking Rings DVD (McBride's 6 Ring; Colombini 3 Ring; Harlan 8 Ring; Schneider 5 Ring; Fleshman Close Up; and Vernon's Symphony of the Rings); Cellini's Lord and Master of the Rings DVD (general moves); Greater Magic Teach-In Linking Rings DVD (Richard Ross, Max Hapner, Jay Marshall, Samuel Patrick Smith); Caroll Baker's Secrets Revealed Linking Rings (DVD); 25 Amazing Tricks with Linking Rings (featuring Troy Hooser);  Bob White's the Chinese Linking Rings DVD.

Close Up: Shoot Ogawa's Ninja Rings; Dan Fleshman's Chinese Linking Rings, Close Up (Inspired by Masahiro Yanagida); McAbee Linking Rings; Tenyo's Close Up Linking Rings (Toru Suzuki, 1999, Japan only)

8 or More Ring Routines: Burtini's Linking Rings (by Fabian); Fitzkee's Rings In Your Fingers; Lewis Ganson Routined Manipulation I/II (also taught on Brad Burt's Linking Ring video); David Ginn's Comedy Linking Rings; Ireland's Linking Ring Routine; Harlen Tarbell's Complete  Course In Magic Volume 4;

5 & 6 Ring Routines: Dai Vernon's Symphony of the Rings (a must have book); Allen Hayden's Fancy Linking Ring Routine (comedy); Jack Miller's Linking Ring Routine (book by Bob Novak); Richard Ross Ring Routine (also for 3 rings); Shigeo Takagi Amazing Miracles; Tom Frank's The Legend of the Five Mystic Rings DVD (Jack Miller routine).

3 & 4 Ring Routines: Al Koran's Three Silver Rings (book by Ken Brooke); Chris Capehart (book/video); Lewis Ganson Art of Close Up 2;  Aldo Colombini (both normal and comedy presentations); Whit Haydn's Four Ring Routine; Roger Klause's Chinese Quartet; Frank Caple's Three Ring Rhapsody (Marcom Presents Magic); Marlo's Arcade Dreams (book by Jon Racherbaumer); John Blake's 3 Ring Routine; Mike Skinner's Master Teach In DVD.

Unusual Approaches: Mike Caveney's Linking Coathangers, Stevens Magic Linking Barbed Wire Rings; Dick Zimmerman's Linking Hula Hoops

Ring Sets:

I would recommend skipping the cheaper versions ($10-20) of this effect. If you are going to perform it, you should use a nice set, which can be found for about $50 and up. It can be difficult to know what brand of linking rings you are getting, since most catalogs simply list the size and a price. I have a set of Bumper rings which were about $50 (from Denny & Lee's Magic Studio), and I can recommend them as a good starting set. The set of 3 locking rings from Houdini's Magic Shop available recently (1999) has been getting great reviews for a $50 set, though I haven't seen them. The Linking Rings reference page lists many of the rings currently available today. 

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