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China: Crickets Compete in National Championship!

By: RTV/CCTV/CBS
By: RTV/CCTV/CBS

Autumn marks the cricket fighting season in Beijing, a traditional Chinese sport with over 1,000 years of history.

Similar to cock fighting, the traditional Chinese cricket fight involves two crickets duking it out within a fixed ring.

Man Zhiguo, a part-time cricket fighting fanatic and full-time truck driver, has been raising and fighting crickets for over 40 years.

The 54-year-old has a diverse collection of more than 70 crickets from across China, some worth over 10,000 Yuan ($1633.69) a piece.

Each of his specimens lie nestled in modest clay jars along the shelves of his cricket room in a traditional Beijing courtyard.

Man feeds his crickets a mixture of bean paste and water as part of their high-protein diet and trains them regularly. This was all in preparation for this year's National Cricket Fighting Championships, which was held in his hometown of Beijing during the national day holiday in the first week of October.

Although cricket raising and fighting are typically associated with the habits of Beijing's old timers, Man said that the sport still has a devoted following.

"I raise crickets as a hobby because I admire their positive spirit. They never admit defeat, they have a fighting spirit. So we all like them," said Man.

Crickets have a short lifespan, often not more than 100 days. When crickets are in their prime in the autumn, China's major cricket fighting competition is held.

This year over 20 teams from provinces across China competed in the two-day championships, with each member offering up their most prized crickets.

A day before the competition each individual cricket from every team was weighed and labeled.

"Every team is allowed to have 35 crickets. The 35 crickets have to be weighed. Why do we have to weigh them? We must have crickets within the same weight category compete, just like we do with wrestling, weight-lifting, and boxing," said Zhao Boguang, the organizer of this year's National Cricket Championships.

The cricket fight itself requires the handlers to poke and prod at their insects with a piece of hay or small stick to irritate them. A judge then removes a divider between the two crickets from the ring and the insects are free to fight each other.

Judges follow a set of strict guidelines and rules, most of which date back to the 13th century, for determining match points.

The loud chirps indicate the crickets have been significantly enraged, but cajoling them into fighting is not easy.

Points are then tallied by which aggressive cricket is able to overcome the other, but unlike cock fighting, the matches rarely result in fatal injury for the insects.

Winning teams are determined through a process of elimination over the two-day period of the contest, and points are deducted by failure to abide by certain match rules, such as delivering the crickets to the match organizers six days before the competition.

Man's crickets did not lose a single match, but his team finished fourth overall.


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