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Golf in Ancient China:Chuiwan

Since ancient times, there are several famous ball games which have prevailed, such as Cuju--the primitive form of today's football; Maqiu, a game resembles polo in which one has to play ball by stick or bat on horseback. There is also another game of Tang dynasty called Buda which resembles hockey: one plays the ball on foot. Buda game features tense competition, and those who shoot the rival's gate more often will be the winner. During Song dynasty, Buda gave birth to a new game--Chuiwan, the ancient Chinese's golf. It is more an entertainment game than a competitive sport. In Chuiwan game, there is no gate, one will win one point if the ball is hit into the hole. The equipment of Chuiwan is very special and delicate. The sticks are usually made of bamboo which is strong, flexible and endurable. The batting point is made of hard wood. The ball is made of agate or tree knot with the size of an egg.

During Yuan dynasty, there is a man named Ning Zhi wrote a book --Wanjing(The Art of Chuiwan) in 1282 dealing with this game's history, field, equipment, participants number and rules. From this book, one can see that it resembles modern golf emerged in Europe except some details such as one plays golf with two hands while in Chuiwan, one hand will do. From Wanjing, we can deduce the latest forming year of Chuiwan is in 1125 of North Song dynasty. At that time, even the children love this game very much. Song(960-1279), Jin and Yuan dynasties(1206-1368) saw the robust development of this game. From emperor to the low class, every one indulged in it. We can find evidences from the historical records and literature pieces of that time, in which this game was mentioned a lot.

the Book Chuiwan


Features of Chuiwan

According to Wanjing, the first and most distinctive feature of Chuiwan is that holes are dug in field and one has to hit the balls into the holes; Second, the field is often located in wide place with various terrains; Third, the holes are marked with colorful flags, sometimes, there as 10 holes in a field; Fourth, the specific site which one hit the ball into hole measures less than 33.33cm in width and length. Once it is marked, it cannot be changed or ruined, and one cannot step into it. Besides, it has to face the hole directly with the distance ranging from 333cm to 60 steps. Furthermore, if there is any stone on the surface in some areas, one should remove them.

The bats or sticks of Chuiwan vary in category and numbers. It can be divided into three kinds according to numbers: the whole set has 10 bats, the medium-sized set has 8 bats and the minor set features less than 8 bats. Believe that good equipments count, ancient people also summed up the expertise regarding equipment-making: one should cut the woods in Autumn and Winter to get the best materials for bats. To ensure the top quality, one should make the bats during the transitional period of Spring and Summer when the temperature is perfect. Tree knots were considered as the best materials for making balls for they are endurable and with ideal weight. Regarding the skills of playing Chuiwan, Wanjing also wrote a lot include that one should hold the bat with moderate strength, and hit it in a proper way.

 the bats and balls used in Chuiwan

 the wood balls used in Chuiwan Game(Song dynasty960AD-1279AD)


 Chuiwan was introduced to Japan(two Janpanese play Chuiwan in ancient time)

 Emperor Ming Xuanzong plays Chuiwan

The glorious of Chuiwan lasted from Song(960-1279), Liao(907-1125), Jin(1115-1234) and Yuan(1206-1368) dynasties before it declined in end of Ming dynasty(1368-1644) and the whole Qing dynasty(1636-1911), a period when it was reduced to simple games played by women and children. Traces of Chuiwan still lingered during the middle of Ming dynasty. There is one painting preserved in the Forbidden City which depicts Emperor Ming Xuanzong plays Chuiwan. The outlook of field, flags, holes and bats all overlap with the description in Wanjing, except that man-made obstacles are made to replace the wild hilly-place. Besides, we can perceive that Chuiwan was still an elegant entertainment at that time. Just like other ancient sports in China, Chuiwan was introduced into Korea and Japan during the cultural exchange process. According to experts, Chuiwan also exerted significant influence on modern golf.

Emperor Ming Xuanzong plays Chuiwan

The saying that modern golf originated in the 12th century in Scotland is widely-accepted. Evidence shows that as early as the middle of 14th century, the British has played a game resembling golf. In the museum of England, a book of the 16th century has one illustration which depicts three participants each hold a bat and a ball in hand, and there are holes in the field. The earliest rules of modern golf were specified in 1754 in Scotland while the rules of Chuiwan were settled in 1282 in China. So here arises the assumptive proposition that Chuiwan could has been introduced into Europe during Yuan dynasty, an era of massive-scaled cultural exchange between oriental and occidental, an era when Genghis Khan marched the westward expedition and conquered vast foreign territories until he reached the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Against the background featuring oriental culture instilled into the middle east and Europe culture and enrich them, this assumptive proposition could make sense. 
How do Ancient Chinese Play Chuiwan

Chuiwan can be divided into three kinds according to scales: the large-scaled competition which comprises of 9 to 10 people, media-scaled one which contains 7 to 8 people and the small-sized one composed of 5 to 6 people.

1 Participants will be divided into several teams, each team comprising 3 to 4 people or there is no need to divide into teams and they just fight each other.

2 Before the game kicks off, each participant has to get 5 cards in specific place.

3 When the game starts, each one has to hit the three balls into three different holes accordingly. Of course, they cannot hit repeatedly.

4 If one hit the 3 balls into 3 holes successfully, one will win one card. Those win the biggest number of cards will be the winner. Punishment rules are set up also.

Technically speaking, Chuiwan and golf are the same: first, both have holes, Chuiwan in Ming dynasty has 10 holes and golf has 9 or 18 holes; Second, both use similar bat to hit the balls; Third, both has similar requirements on the playing fields: the co-existence of even terrain and obstacles and undulating places.

 Various balls used in Chuiwan Game during different dynasties


Emerged in Song dynasty, Chuiwan prevailed during the following dynasties and even children get involved in it

 Ceramic Pillar of Yuan dynasty(1206-1368) which depicting two men play Chuiwan

 Stone Cavings depicting Chuiwan Game(Song dynasty960AD-1279AD)

 Ceramics depicting Chuiwan Game

 Ceramics depicting Chuiwan Game

 Tools for Chuiwan Game


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