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Chinese Ancient Football, Cuju

China, the Birthplace of Football

Since Europe has dominated the football kingdom for so long a time, most people tend to assume that Europe is football's origination place, while the ancient relics and records in China challenge this saying and provide solid prove: China is the real hometown of football.

Though without written record of its origination date, football was first mentioned in Bielu, the first classified catalog book in ancient China. The author Liu Xiang stated in this book: “According to legend, Cuju(football) was first created by Emperor Huangdi who lived over 5000 years ago to train his armies”. To verify this saying, scientists carried out research in Shang Xi Province, Shanxi Province and Yellow River areas haunted by Emperor Huangdi, and they found many round stone balls there, thus prove the truth of this saying. Another Book of Liu Xiang composed during Western Han Dynasty (202BC-9AD)-- Intrigues of the Warring States (《战国策》) can prove that football has been popularized as early as 2300 year ago in The State of Qi , today’s Linzi City,Shandong Province.

 China, the Birthplace of Football

 Huang Di, the Creator of Football

Functioning as an important approach to train soldiers during Warring States Period(475BC-221BC), football was not introduced into the high class until Han Dynasty(220BC-220AD) by emperor Liu Bang(265BC-195BC), a man of humble background. After he became the first emperor of Han dynasty, he invited his parents to live in the royal palace and offered them the most delicious food and silk clothes, only found them were depressed. It turned out they missed the game of Cuju. So Liu Bang ordered his subsidiaries to build the Weiyang Palace to shelter all the old neighbors of his parents and constructed a football field. His parents became happy again. Liu Bang’s parents were farmers, and from this written story we can see that Cuju was a sport favored by the low class in society at first.

A team of 12 to 16 members will take part in the Cuju Game which is very intense and expels the weak ones. The first football accident in the world happened in China also. A football player named Xiang Chu, insisted on participating the football game despite of his illness. Unfortunately, he did not survive the fierce football game at that day.

People of the State of Qi Play Football

What Does Ancient Football Looks like?

Linzi city in Shandong Province was recognized as the birthplace of football in 2004, you can see the original flavor Cuju performance there

Stone Football unearthed in the ancient capital of Qi State, (today's Shandong Province),which was created by Emperor Huangdi

Football Made of Eight Pieces (Tang & Song dynasties)

Football Made of 12 Pieces(Song Dynasty)

How did Ancient Chinese Play Football?


 Football has a long history in China

 Football was called Cuju in Ancient China

Stone carvings:  the scene of Ancient Chinese Play football during Han Dynasty Upper: Ancient Chinese Play Football in Palace for fun; Lower: Ancient Chinese Play Football for Military Training Purpose

While in Tang dynasty, two rival teams separated by the high gate above the ground will compete with each other, there is no body confliction. The team hit the target more often will be the winner. It is a progress for skills and a backward for physical training, however.

With the football become lighter and less violent, girls can join this game also, and the rule is who can kick higher or in a more fanciful way will be the winner. In Tang dynasty, girls not only can join the football game, but also have developed outstanding skills. In the year of 900, the first girls’ football team emerged in the royal palace. The emperor will award the winners at that time.

 Bronze Mirror of Tang dynasty: girls play football

 Girls were good at football in Tang dynasty

Football was favored by emperors of Song Dynasty and reached its prime time

Football was favored by emperors of Tang Dynasty

However, this phenomenon does not last long. An emperor lived in the 10th century changed the fate of all Chinese women in feudal society for one millennium. His sick taste of small feet became the standard of beauty, unfortunately. Girls were requested to confine their feet since the age of 10, thus they bade farewell to all sports until the early of 20th century. As to the men, the only change is the improvement of the quality of football.

Football reached it prime time during Song dynasty. Emperors of that time enjoyed this game very much. Emperor Song Huizong, in particular, indulged in the football game so much that he would launch the football game event on various grand occasions. Besides, he even accepted one of his subsidiary’s ridiculous advice that winners will be awarded while losers will be humiliated by painting their face by yellow and white powders. Football in Song dynasty is more an entertainment activity than a competitive sport game. Song dynasty saw the first football club found in China. Only those with outstanding skills are permitted to become its members. The successive dynasties include Yuan and Ming still preserved this game, while in Qing dynasty, it declined.

Further Reading: Chinese Polo(Maqiu or Jiju)


 Polo, England

  Jiju Game resembles Polo game

 Jiju Game in Ancient China

  Jiju Game in Ancient China

Linzi Football Museum: a place to see Cuju performance& history of Football 
Located at downtown of Linzi city, Shangdong Province, Linzi Footbal museum serves as the best site for tourists to see the relics, history and culture of football since ancient China. Cuju performance is held inside also. Featuring fantastic gestures, grand scale and classic music, you can enjoy the most original flavor football game show here.

Among its 10 exhibition halls, over 150 precious relics and over 300 pictures are presented, added by over 20 restoration sites, you can see the origination, development and transmission process of football spanning 2400 years. It is said Cuju reached Japan and Korean initially. FIFA president Sepp Blatter remarked: “Linzi city in Shandong Province is the birthplace of football which was spread to Egypt before it was transmitted to Greece, Roma, France and England.”

 The scene of Girls play football engraved on bronze mirror

Other Scenic Sites in Shangdong Province
Taishan World Geopark: Located in Tai’an City, Shandong Province, Taishan World Geopark is a perfect blending of striking natural sceneries, ancient geological relics as well as irreplaceable cultural and religious content.
Bars to Watch Football

150m south of Haidu Hotel(海都大酒店南行150米路西)


Shuguang Road: Bars here enjoy longer history, good natural enviroment and are more famous. Among them, Traveler Bar and Reggae Bar are the earliest and most famous ones. Traveller bar boasts the best singers of Hangzhou,while Reggae Bar features Jamaica music and is the gather place of foreigners.
Guashan Bar Avenue:it is relative new, and sits in north of Hangzhou City. There are12 bars with distinctive characteristics here. Location: Near the crossroad of Gongkang Road and Shixiang Road.


Bar Blu: It is a bar with England flavor. The second floor is relative quiet and there is a balcony. You can see the important football games in the second floor which is equipped with a large screen TV.
Location: 4th floor,Tongli Building, 43# of Sanlidun, Chaoyang District, Beijing City(北京朝阳区三里屯酒吧北街43号同里楼4楼)
UHLAND BIER-SALON: This place is spacious and can contain at least 200 people. You can watch football game through the big screen Tvs and drink black beer meanwhile here.
 Location: No 1, Xinjian Gongmen Road, Haidian District, Beijing City ( south of Metro supermarket北京海淀区新建宫门路1号)

China Clubfootball(万国群星足球俱乐部): It is a football-themed bar. Football fans’ paradise.
Location: The first floor of Ruixiu Hotel, No 10 of Chunxiu Road,Dongzhimen Avenue, Chaoyang District,Beijing City(北京朝阳区东直门外大街春秀路10号瑞秀宾馆1楼)

Girls were good at football during Tang dynasty(618-907)


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