Hopping mad: Crickets fight it out at China’s championships

Hopping mad: Crickets fight it out at China’s championships

BEIJING - Goaded with small sticks, the fighters went into battle, pushing and shoving until Red Tooth overpowered Black Foot to win the match and cheers from the crowd.

In Beijing, autumn marks cricket fighting season, a traditional Chinese sport with more than 1,000 years of history.

Similar to cockfighting but without the blood, the contests put two crickets into a ring the size of a shoebox to determine which is the more aggressive. The reputations of the owners are on the line and there is plenty of betting on the side.

This year, more than 20 teams from across China competed in the two-day National Cricket Fighting Championships, putting forth their most prized contenders - which are named for their physical characteristics - as fans packed into a small, smoky hall to watch the matches broadcast on a screen.

"I raise crickets as a hobby because I admire their positive spirit," said Man Zhiguo, a truck driver who has been involved in the sport for more than 40 years. "They never admit defeat, they have a fighting spirit, so we all like them."

Man, 54, has a diverse collection of at least 70 crickets from all over China, some worth more than 10,000 yuan (S$2,050).

They are kept in modest clay jars on the shelves of his cricket room in a traditional Beijing courtyard. He feeds his fighters a mixture of bean paste and water as part of a high-protein diet and trains them regularly.

Cricket raising and fighting are associated with Beijing's old timers but Man said the sport still has a devoted following.

The insects have a lifespan of 100 days or so and are in their prime in the autumn. Every year, 25 major cities in China hold regional fights and the winners advance to the prestigious contests in Beijing.

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