Established over 1000 years ago during the Tang dynasty, cricket fighting is a popular sport in China.
Unlike similar sports that feature animals fighting, these fighters rarely get injured.
Believe it or not, these crickets are carefully bred and selected to fight. They’re raised on a strict diet. The night before fighting day, female crickets are even put in the same cage to boost the male’s fighting spirit.
The cricket fighting season continues until the end of September so, eager to experience a match firsthand, we wandered to the Flower, Bird, Fish, & Insect Market of Shanghai.
The market is worth a visit in and of itself. You can wander aisles filled with stalls of giant crickets, colorful birds singing in cages, puppies piled up, and fish flitting through tanks.
The crickets are assigned fights according to their weight class and the rules are pretty simple: the first cricket to turn away loses. A cricket minder meanwhile pokes and prods the fighters with a hay stick to start the fight.
Although it’s illegal, gambling on the crickets is quite popular. Top fighters can even sell for over $1000.
We missed the main fights that morning, which are even broadcasted on a TV for the audience to see. However, we were able to pay 15 yuan to witness our own private match.
While the fight isn’t violent, it’s certainly an experience worth seeing.
Historically, emperors and concubines placed crickets in small cages next to their beds to lull them to sleep.
In order to engage in the culture to the fullest opportunity (and perhaps because I like Mulan) I purchased my own 幸运的蟋蟀 or lucky cricket complete with a woven bamboo cage.
Perhaps this little guy can help make my next Chinese test go smoother!