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In ancient china, there used to be a popular sport called cuju. Ju is a kind of rubber ball made of leather outside and stuffed tightly with feather inside. Cuju means "kick the ball with foot". Although cuju with no historical connection with football, some including FIFA believe that cuju is the forerunner of modern football because of the similar way of playing.

The History of Cuju

Some people claim that the Yellow Emperor (2717-2599BC)was the initiator of cuju, who invented it to train his soldiers ,while others hold the opinion that Cuju emerged during China's Warring States Period (476-221 BC). In any case, it certainly existed during this period and was used as not only fitness training for military cavaliers, but also an entertainment played for in wealthy cities like Linzi (A county in Shandong Province). During the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), cuju spreaded from the army to the royal courts and upper classes, even the Emperor Han Wudi enjoyed this kind of sport. At that time rules were established. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), cuju was improved. The feather-stuffed ball was replaced by an air-filled ball with a two-layered hull and two different types of goal posts emerged. At that time, Chang'an, the capital of Tang Dynasty was filled with Cuju fields, in the backyards of large mansions, and some were even established in the grounds of the palaces. Cuju flourished during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) due to social and economic development, extending its popularity to every class in society. At that time, professional cuju players were quite popular, and the sport began to take on a commercial edge. Professional cuju players fell into two groups: One was trained by and performed for the royal court and the other consisted of civilians who made a living as cuju players. Also in the Song Dynasty only one goal post was set up in the center of the field, while during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, the cuju game with a single goal or two goals phased out of the history stage. The skating-loving Manchurians even combined cuju with skating, creating a new sports called "cuju on the ice" to train the lifeguards.

There were two main styles of cuju: "Zhu Qiu" and "Bai Da" in history. In zhu qiu, players of the two opposing sides didn't come into contact, but were separated by a net about ten meters high in the middle, with a round goal about 30 cm in diameter on top. The side that scored more goals was the winner. While Bai Da was a show of skills with no goal. The number of players ranged anywhere from two to ten. The players juggled the ball with all parts of the body except their hands and performed dozens of tricks in a row without letting the ball fall to the ground.

Zibo--the Birthplace of Football

Zibo, located in the middle part of Shandong Province, is well known as the historical state of Qi and was the most populous city in the east about 2000 years ago. People called Zibo “the birthplace of football” because of its close relation with cuju. On July 15th, 2004, Mr. Blatter, Chairman of FIFA officially declared to the world "the world football was originated in China" in the Third China International Football Expo, and Zibo in Shandong Province was conformed to be the cradle of world football. During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he indicated again: "China is the birthplace of football. Linzi is the hometown of football. It's the pride of you, all Chinese, and also the pride of the whole world and all people that love football and the World Cup." In order to preserve Chinese traditional culture, students in Zibo city has many cuju activities after class.

Female Player of Cuju

As we all known, Chinese women were severely restricted by traditional moral concepts, yet it seemed another case on the playground 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. It was recorded that once a 17-year-old girl beat a team of army soldiers in Tang Dynasty. The Yuan and Ming Dynasties even witnessed the emergence of professional female cuju players, who could be credited as the earliest women football players.

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