Traditional Sports & Activities

Traditional Sports & Activities

It is inevitable that with such a long history China should have developed several unique and traditional sports and pastimes. While some are practiced widely by the Han minority as well as the minority groups who make up these groups and reflect their own cultures. As the country is so large and the various minorities are separated by vast distances it is not surprising that they have their own special ways in which to express their vigor and enthusiasm.

Almost all the traditional sports were derived from productive activity. The Mongolians, Tibetans and Kazaks inhabit vast natural grasslands and horsemanship is vital to their existence. Consequently their gift for riding and shooting has given rise to their forms of sport. The people who live in agricultural communities or who rely on hunting for their livelihood are good at climbing, wrestling, jumping, shooting and so on.

Many of these activities are accompanied by singing, dancing, and instrumental performances that are art forms in their own right. They are mostly held as part of the festivals like Spring Festival and other days of significance. The Bamboo Pole Dance of the Li ethnic group is an example. The participants squat or kneel in pairs opposite each other and hold the end of a bamboo poles in each hand. The couples bring the poles together and apart in time with the rhythm of musical accompaniment. Graceful dancers perform between the moving poles, ensuring that they maintain a rhythm that is in time with the poles so as to avoid being trapped between them. This is a very skillful and entertaining sight.

Traditional Sports & Activities

Land Based Sports:

Tug-of-War, Ancient Football, Top-Spinning

Stepping on High, Silk Balls, Firework-Catching

Crossbow-Firing, Wrestling, Shuttlecock, Horse Racing

Bamboo Pole Dance, Skipping Ropes, Lion Dance

Martial Arts

Aerial Sports : This will involve the use of swings, ropes and the springboard, etc.

Aquatic Sports: These encompass swimming, diving and boating events such as the famous dragon boat races.

Many ethnic groups in the southern China and Han People have continued the custom of the Dragon Boat Race for the Dragon Boat Festival. The Zhuang, Miao, Dai, Bai, and Tujia people decorate the boats to resemble a dragon and shout their support with drums and gongs. Craftsmen exercise their skills to the full with their carving and painting to decorate each boat.

According to legend, the race became the custom following the rescue of the patriotic poet Qu Yuan in the Warring States Period (476 BC - 221BC) which shows just how old this custom is. As far back as the Sui Dynasty, the Emperor Yan sailed in a large-scale dragon boat with the height of 15 meters (49 feet) and the length of 67 meters (220 feet). The boat contained halls and 120 cabins. It is recorded that there were nine boats, each three storeys high, in use at this time.

In competitions the dragon boat race often appears as a group item. Nowadays the boat is usually around 20 meters (66 feet) long and 1 meter (3.3 feet) wide. A participating team will have oarsmen or oarswomen, a coxswain, a gong beater and a drummer. The oarsmen will row and keep stroke, following the rhythmical drumbeats.

To maintain and encourage the development of these colorful sports, provincial and even national meetings have been held. China's National Games of Minority Nationality's Traditional Sports is one example and is now held every four years. The seventh of these very successful meetings was held in 2003.

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