Celebration of game that led to modern soccer

By Li Yingxue| (chinadaily.com.cn)| Updated : 2022-12-01

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Youth from China and Qatar in traditional cuju costumes. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Lotuses moving gracefully in the wind" and "swallows returning to nest" are phrases that evoke images of nature at its best. But they serve another purpose. They are also the names of tricks in the ancient Chinese game cuju, a forerunner of modern soccer.

Li Weipeng, the seventh-generation inheritor of cuju in China, demonstrated these tricks during the China-Qatar youth cuju exchange on Nov 21 in Doha, Qatar, where the World Cup is in full swing.

Li also led Chinese and Qatari youth players, wearing traditional cuju costumes, to sample the ancient game and see for themselves the similarities and differences between cuju and soccer.

A cuju photo exhibition was displayed at the event, which attracted the attention of the guests and youth players from both countries. The exhibition introduced the history of cuju and the background of the ancient Chinese game.

Cuju, which has been traced back to the Linzi district of Zibo, Shandong province, was acknowledged by FIFA as the earliest form of soccer in 2004. The word cu means to kick, while ju refers to an ancient type of leather ball filled with feathers.

The event is hosted by the Chinese and Foreign Cultural Exchange Center of China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Shandong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, and Zibo city's government.

Chinese Ambassador to Qatar Zhou Jian said at the event that cuju is one of the spiritual symbols and part of the cultural essence of Chinese civilization.

"I hope that this event will be an opportunity to attract more Qatari people to understand and perceive Chinese culture, and promote the exchange and mutual appreciation of Chinese and Qatari cultures," Zhou says.

China fully supports Qatar in hosting the World Cup, Zhou says, and the two countries have carried out fruitful cooperation in many fields, including the construction of the World Cup venues, public transportation and broadcasting.


Chinese and Qatari youth experience the ancient Chinese game of cuju in Doha, Qatar, on Nov 21. Youth from China and Qatar in traditional cuju costumes. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"Two lovely pandas also met with the Qatari people recently, which added a festive and peaceful Chinese element to the success of the World Cup," Zhou says.

After the event, a friendly soccer match between Chinese and Qatari youths was held.

The event is part of a series of international exchange promotion activities, dubbed Cultural Journey to the Origin of Football.

Another important event of this cultural journey is the exhibition about cuju at the FIFA Fan Festival, which is taking place from Nov 20 to Dec 18 in Al Bidda Park, Doha.

In the cuju exhibition booth, several areas, including a cuju door display, graphics, videos and live interaction, are set to present the historical and modern interpretations of the ancient Chinese game.

In addition, on Thursday, Zibo held a cuju performance and an exhibition at Linzi Football Museum, along with the screening of a promotional film named Cultural Journey to the Origin of Football.