It’s no joke that crickets are territorial insects.  Male crickets in particular, are known to engage in aggressive battles that can go on for several minutes before the weaker male surrenders. It is certainly an interesting event to witness!  In China, they’ve actually made a blood sport out of it and established an ongoing cultural tradition.

For thousands of years, the Chinese have enjoyed these cricket battles as a form of entertainment. It dates back to the Tang dynasty, when people began keeping crickets as pets, mainly to enjoy their chirping songs. Later, during the Song dynasty, a man named Jia Sidao inspired others to participate in cricket fights through his own personal obsession with it. Emperor Ming Xuan-Zhong also expressed an intense interest in cricket fighting and made cricket tributes through out his palace. Naturally, the emperor’s favorite hobby impressed upon the people of the land.  The rich and poor alike participated in cricket fights, but class differences were easy to see. Wealthy folks paid others to set up the cricket fights, while the impoverished members of society gambled away their precious savings.  It was not uncommon for lower-class individuals to lose everything they owned on an unlucky bet.

Cricket fighting was banned in China during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, but still existed in secret.  Today, cricket fighting is undergoing a revival. Pet markets that sell crickets are increasingly popular in China’s major cities, and cricket fight clubs have sprung up throughout the nation.  Though gambling is illegal, there are tournaments in which the owner of the winning cricket can receive a prize of up to $1500.   These tournaments can be very serious events in which the cricket battlefield is filmed and broadcasted on a big screen for a room full of enthusiastic onlookers.  Prize-winning crickets can be sold for up to $50 a piece!

Crickets are taken care of in a special manner to prepare for fights. It is not uncommon for a male cricket to be provided with females prior to a fight in order to rouse up his aggressive spirit.  The night before a tournament, many owners feed their cricket a special maggot, and treat it to an herbal spray. The following day, there is a complex method for weighing crickets and judging matches.

The typical cricket fight begins when two male crickets are placed inside a clear plastic container together.  The owners then use straw sticks to coax the crickets to face each other. Soon enough, the crickets lock mandibles and the battle is on.

Although it is considered to be a blood sport, crickets do not not fight to the death or injure one another beyond recovery.

It is also very common in China for people to keep crickets as pets.

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