Cricket-fighting: An Ancient Chinese Game

A lot of entertainment or sport-related activities that require the contestation between animals has been a long-time tradition for cultures across the world. These animals are generally on the larger side, but not always. Did you know Cricket fighting exists? You might have seen a glimpse in the closing scene of the classic film, The Last Empire.
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How It All Began

Over 1300 years ago in the Tang Dynasty between 618 to 906 A.D, during the spread of Buddhism, the gambling hobby of contesting male crickets began to emerge. Crickets have been kept in Chinese homes for generations in beautiful hand-carved cages, sometimes made out of gold. They were hung in homes because the stridulation they made was perceived as a beautiful sound.

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The fighting aspect was initially only an activity that was played by the emperors but was soon popularized by the locals. The emperor in the 13th century during the Song Dynasty had become so obsessed with the activity that it would soon become the game that defined the culture. The rules that were made would be followed to the modern-day.

Cricket Battles Today

With the environment becoming a fragile entity, the cricket population amongst many has been compromised. Therefore, for these traditional cricket-keepers, finding strong and contestable crickets is becoming incredibly challenging. The crickets used are a pedigree breed found in the northern Shandong provinces by very committed keepers. These crickets are raised independently from each other as they are kept in separate clay pots with an extraordinarily rich diet until they are mature enough to battle.  Some cricket-keepers feed their crickets ginseng to give them a bit of extra energy for their fight. They are then classed by weight and to hype them up before battle, female crickets are placed in their clay pots on the eve of the fight. To win a fight that can last up to 45 minutes: the opponent must either be thrown from the arena, stop chirping, or avoid the battle altogether.

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An Age-Old Tradition

Traditions keep cultures unique and creative, and the custom of cricket fighting is a true testament to that. To commemorate the crickets who lost their lives honorably, they were placed in a small coffin where a funeral service is held. These ‘soldiers’ are displayed in the Museum in Macau.

The Fans

These competitions can have thousands of participants and viewers; therefore, the Association for Cricket Fighting in Beijing organizes these events and ensure that the law is obliged where no gambling is associated.  Regardless that this sport has lost a lot of popularity over the decades, many young Chinese people in recent generations wish to revive these traditional pastimes. In 2010 alone, over $60 million were spent on this hobby, telling us that it’s not going anywhere any time soon.