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Polo and Cuju (Ball-Kicking)

2003-11-16 08:53:00 COC Website

    Polo, also called "jiju" in ancient times, was most popular in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). All the 16 monarchs from Emperor Zhongzong who took power in the year 705 to Emperor Zhaozong who ascended the throne in 889 were polo enthusiasts. Some of them were even highly skilled players. Many high-ranking officials had luxurious polo fields in their own gardens. Measuring 1, 000 paces long and 100 paces wide, the field was sprayed allover with oil to prevent the galloping horses from kicking up dust. There were also many polo lovers among scholar. According to historical records, a polo match at the Moon- light Chamber was one of the gala events for celebrating success in the highest imperial examination. Being favoured by emperors, nobles and scholars, polo became a fashion in those days.

    Polo also served as a military exercise in the army. All prefectural governors had standard polo fields for training troops. The use of polo for military training lasted for many generations, and the game was always played in reviewing troops. It was not until the Oing Dynasty ( 1644-1911) that polo gradually declined in popularity.

    Cuju, or "ball-kicking," was an ancient Chinese game similar to present- day football. It has a recorded history of more than 2,500 years. A book titled" Twenty-Five Articles on Cuju" was written during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), when the game was played by teams on fields equipped with goals, the matches being supervised by judges following prescribed rules. Methods of play underwent great changes in the Tang Dynasty! ( 618-907 ). Players of the two opposing sides did not come into contact with each other, but were separated by a net about a dozen metres high, on the top of which was a round goal about one third of a metre in diameter. The side which scored more goals was the winner. The ball was made of eight pieces of smooth hide sewn together. Inflated with an animal bladder, it could be kicked to a height of a dozen metres.

    In the Song Dynasty (960-1127), cuju was often presented as a performing art. The players, juggling the ball with all parts of the body except the hands, performed scores of stunts at a stretch without letting the ball fall on the ground. Many cuju performers appeared and formed their own society --Oi Yun She. Books on the game were published, but only three titles have been handed down to this day.

    Women were also involved in cuju during the Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. Some were professional performers. The game gradually declined in the mid-Oing Dynasty (1644-1911).

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