Sport in Ancient China

Saturday, August 31, 2013 | By:



In the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C.- 771 B.C.), archery was an essential part of education for an accomplished gentleman. Starting at age 15 they began learning five techniques, including being able to shoot with enough force to penetrate a target and shooting three arrows in quick succession.


In Chinese legend, swordplay wasn’t always just a man’s game. Due to her skills with a blade, a teenage girl living in the forests of the ancient State of Yue (722B.C.-221B.C.) attracted the attention of the king, who sent her to train the royal army. On the way, she was challenged by a senior swordsman. They competed with two bamboo branches, and—when the dust cleared— the young girl won in only three moves, paving the way for competitive swordplay. She was later honored with the name “The woman of Yue” (越女 Yuè nǚ). Swordplay was prevalent in later dynasties as it matured and became more complicated.

Ancient Football

First recorded 2,000 years ago, cuju is known as the earliest form of football. The popularity of the sport peaked in the Tang (618-907) and Song Dynasties (960-1279). Eight pieces of leather were stitched together to form a round shell. Inside, an animal bladder was installed and inflated; the goal was a net on bamboo sticks. Cuju differs in that a single goal was located at the middle of the field, and the number of players varied as long as both teams were equally matched. Players also had competitions on technique—for example, juggling the ball with their feet. One women’s team, consisting of 153 members, was recorded as so proficient that, once they started, the ball never touched the ground.

Jī jū

Nobles in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) loved to hit wooden balls with a stick on horseback. Of all 19 emperors, 11 were hardcore fans. Two of them even died in polo accidents. Said to have been introduced by Persian and Tubo Kingdoms, Polo was also actively practiced by ancient Chinese women. Sometimes, it was more than recreational. When Emperor Xizong had trouble choosing between four candidates to be the military official for the Sichuan region, a game of polo was set as the decider. In the end, the low-born, but excellent polo player, got the job.

Chinese Golf
Chuí wán

No one is really sure of the connection between ancient and modern golf, but there are some surprising similarities. Chinese golf was usually set in open country with various landscapes, and according to a depiction of Emperor Mingzong (1300-1329) enjoying the game, there were 10 holes spread across the course with small flags inserted beside them. Whoever strikes the wooden ball into the hole with their stick gets a point. The game was most popular in the Song and Yuan Dynasties. From the emperor and nobles to the common folk and children, Chinese golf was the sport of the age. Luckily many aspects of the sport are recorded and discussed in the book “Ball Scripture” (《丸经》Wán jīng), compiled in the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368).

Bīng xī

You might not imagine it from watching Brian Boitano today, but ice-skating was once a warriors’ art. Manchu men needed to master the skill to move 350 kilometres in a single day to get to their enemies. When they came to power in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911) and moved from the north to the capital city of Beijing, it became a traditional sport. Each winter, 200 proficient ice-skaters were selected to perform on the frozen royal lake for the court. Skaters would wear knee pads and secure their shoes with leather, shoes fitted with single iron blades for speed or double blades for security. Competitions for figure skating, ice acrobatics and speed skating were also held for the benefit of the royal family.

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30 Responses to Sport in Ancient China

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  2. Fyodor Drozdov says:

    Not ice-scating!!!

  3. nknkm says:

    they had hockey yes they did 8

  4. zujkety says:

    wow i learnt so much!!! this is so much fun!!!

    • Nathan says:


  5. roxy bad bitch says:

    this is very intoresting

  6. Nathan says:

    I think this is crazy

  7. Jed_The_Studier says:

    Ice Skating in ancient China?

  8. Jed_The_Studier says:

    I don’t think there was ice-skating in ancient china.

  9. Ethan1231 says:

    Great Info!

  10. spoderman says:

    i love this website spoder 4 life

  11. jordan says:

    awsome website

  12. J Ghosh says:

    Excellent Information

  13. Learner says:

    Thank you so much! I have a project and this helped me out a lot. Thank you again!

  14. someguy says:

    hi people

  15. nunu says:

    this activity is so good that my teacher learned other things too!!!.

  16. dora explorer says:

    i had a project i had to do 55 facts thank

  17. summer says:

    Is the Chinese football, ice skating, and polo the same as the American
    football, ice skating, and polo.

  18. summer says:

    where there skates back then

  19. Odisieieieiidi says:

    Those are really cool sports really Camden to Canada

  20. Cchdbdgff says:

    Hey world

  21. McKenna says:

    I love ssssssssssccccccchhhhhhhhoooooolllllll

    • jeff says:

      so boring

  22. McKenna says:


  23. Evan says:

    Great information!!!! Oh I’m A Goofy Goober YEAH!!!!!!

    • lool says:


    • Chloe says:

      Why would you say you are a goofy goober that’s just weird

  24. Jack skinner says:

    Your crap!!!!


    Bruh tell me more!!! I said MOre!!!!!