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5 Amazing sports that started in China!

A team of 20 paddlers with their drummer at the front compete in their gold and red dragon boat.
Dragon Boat Festival in Beijing, China, 2009. (Christina Hu/Reuters)

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will feature sports that are popular around the world. But check out these amazing sports that have their origins in China!

Battling Tops

A man holds a long piece of wood with a string attached at one end to a large spinning top.

A competitor throws his wooden top as he competes in the Tuoluo event in Beijing, 2010. (David Gray/Reuters)

If you thought a spinning top was just a toy, think again! In China, it’s also a serious sport. Tuoluo (say "Too-oh-Loo-oh") is a game where players use a long whip to spin a top. 

The most competitive way to play Tuoluo is to battle! To compete, two players spin their battling tops to crash into each other. The player who manages to knock the other top down is the winner!

Dragon Boat Racing

A team of paddlers put all their muscle into rowing their dragon boat.

People take part in a dragon boat race in Hangzhou, China, 2018. (-/AFP via Getty Images)

Have you ever thought it would be cool to ride a dragon? Then check out dragon boat racing! In this sport, long boats are decorated with the head and tail of a dragon. 

During a race, 20 people paddle each boat toward the finish line. The boat crew also has a steerer and a drummer. The steerer makes sure the boat is going in the right direction. The drummer represents the heartbeat of the dragon. They drum along to a beat that helps the paddlers keep a steady pace!

Board Shoe Racing

Two teams of four women each have their shoes tied to long boards so they have to race in unison or risk falling down.

Women's teams compete in board shoe races in Guangxi Province, China, 2006. (STR News/Reuters)

Legend has it that “board shoes” were once a way to train Chinese soldiers to march in line. Now they’re used to play a really fun sport: board shoe racing! 

In this competition, three or four athletes run with the same boards tied to their feet. Teams race each other to the finish line! But in board shoe racing, coordination is key. If a team can’t walk together, they’re not going anywhere!


Some friends play jianzi in a parking lot on their lunch break.

People play Jianzi during their lunch break in Beijing, 2016. (Fred Dufour/Getty Images)

Jianzi (say "gee-on-zee") is a sport that’s over 2,000 years old! It comes from an ancient Chinese game called cuju, which is a lot like soccer. 

The Jianzi is made from a small rubber disk with colourful feathers attached. Players kick the Jianzi, passing it from foot to foot, and even to their head! The goal is to prevent the Jianzi from falling on the ground. In a competition game, two teams face-off on a court and pass the Jianzi back and forth over a net. 

Stilt Racing

Two female athletes race towards the finish line while on special stilts that raise them up at least a foot off the ground.

Athletes compete in the women's 100 metre stilt-walking race during the 8th National Traditional Ethnic Minorities Games in Guangzhou, China, 2007. (China Photos/Getty Images)

Stilt racing is also called “high foot racing.” You can probably see why! Athletes race each other, running high up on sticks made of bamboo. These bamboo sticks are also called a “high horse.” 

Stilt racing has an interesting origin story. Thousands of years ago, people walked on bamboo sticks on rainy days so their feet didn’t get wet. It was a great idea, and now it’s an even greater sport!

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