Ancient Chinese cuju could be recognized as a mass sports activity enjoying the most extensive participation. The participants could be either emperors and court officials or the civilians, either men or women. The activity could be either the entertainment of imperial banquet, or folk recreation. Whether it was in lanes and streets, or military fortress and borders, the sounds of the cuju game could be heard and the sights of the activity could be seen everywhere. Cuju was also a sport of the Qingming Festival. In some places in Japan and Southeast Asia, cuju organizations and cuju games still exist until now, inheriting the practice of Chinas Han and Tang Dynasties.

More about the Qingming Festival

Female Cuju Players

Chinese women were severely restricted by traditional moral concepts, yet it seemed another case on the play ground of cuju game. All women, from the empress and imperial concubines in the palaces, the noble ladies in the garden yard, to the common girls in the villages, could play cuju as their recreational activity. The Yuan and Ming Dynasties even witnessed the emergence of professional female cuju players, who could be credited as the earliest women football players.

Cultural Relics Related to Cuju

Bronze Mirror with Cuju Pattern

Song Dynasty
Diameter: 11.3 cm
Collected in Hunan Provincial Museum
The mirror is round in shape, carved in relief with cuju game pattern: a man and a woman facing each other kicking the ball in front of a Taihu Stone, each waited on by a servant behind.

Porcelain Pillow with Child Playing Cuju Design Fired in Cizhou Kiln

Collected in Hebei Provincial Museum
Measurements: 10.8 cm high, 30 cm long and 18.5 cm wide
Production time: the Northern Song Dynasty

Ivory Brush Holder Carved with Cuju Game Pattern

Collected in Anhui Provincial Museum; Song Dynasty Measurements: 16 cm high, 1.1 cm thick, 10.9 cm in diameter The pattern on the brush holder displays the scene of the aristocrats and high officials of the Song Dynasty watching the cuju game.

The Painting of Emperor Taizong of Song Playing Cuju

High Footed Bowl with Multicolored Cuju Pattern

High Footed bowl with multicolored cuju pattern; Qing Dynasty

Stone Relief Carved with Cuju Game Pattern (Partial View)

Eastern Han Dynasty; Qimu Que stone relief in Dengfeng of Henan Province
The widespread and long-lasting cuju game has been reflected in numerous articles of almost all the literary styles of ancient China: bronze inscriptions, Hanfu, Tang poems, Song ci, Yuan qu, Ming and Qing novels, and so on; while the images of cuju game on culture relics, such as stone carving, bronze mirror, seal, ivory carving, paper/silk painting, porcelain painting, illustration on printings etc have been found now and then. They are all witnesses of the brilliant history of cuju!