- Gordon Dumoulin
Are you familiar with this ancient Chinese sport ?
A summer evening of Jianzi in our neighborhood park
毽子 Jianzi, in English called shuttlecock or featherball (some call it foot badminton) originates from 蹴鞠 Cuju, a game played in especially military circles as exercise during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 9 AD). Cuju is the earliest known recorded game of ‘football’, kicking a ball through an opening into a net without the use of hands. Over time, the ‘ball’ was made by wrapping paper around a coin with a hole in the center and then decorated with feathers.
Over the centuries, Jianzi became a popular sport, not only in China but also in Vietnam, the Philippines and other Asian countries. In Vietnam it is called ‘da cau’ and in the Philippines sipa.
Today the Jianzi shuttlecock are one or more feathers fixed onto a set of small plastic or rubber discs and the game is officially played on a kind of badminton field keeping the shuttlecock in the air by foot or other parts of the body except the hands and try to get the shuttle over the net.
There are several variations of Jianzi, including freestyle by keeping the shuttlecock in the air with different ‘artistic’ moves. In parks, villages and hutongs, people often stand in a circle, keeping the shuttle in the air.
Jianzi came to Europe in 1936, when a Chinese athlete from the province of Jiangsu performed a demonstration at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The International Shuttlecock Federation (ISF) was founded in 1999 and the first world championship was organized in Hungary. China regularly organizes international competitions for Jianzi.
Though unless you have been visiting parks, villages or hutongs in China, Vietnam, the Philippines or other Asian countries with people playing Jianzi, the sport is still rare in other global regions.
There are even special Jianzi shoes, lightweight, flat-soled shoes with long, thin uppers (to feel the shuttle) for the professionals and enthusiasts.
header picture source : Radii