Ancient game is alive and well in Beijing’s hutong

By Ian Callison and Kyle Hodges ( ) Updated: 2016-07-19 10:47:21

Though he is 75 years old, Chai Tixian is able to play Jianzi with surprising speed, skill and coordination. With a flick of his foot, he can send the shuttle rocketing up and have it land precisely on the center of his forehead.

Jianzi, or kicking shuttle, is a game that dates back to the Han dynasty. The game is deceptively simple; players must keep a shuttlecock, made of a small leather disc and a plume of feathers, up in the air. This is done mainly by kicking it, but all parts of the body besides the hands are legal at keeping the shuttlecock up. Despite its straightforward rules, the game is quite challenging, and requires an immense amount of flexibility and coordination.

Although it is played throughout China, Chai Ti Xan describes it as an important part of hutong culture. The ancient game is popular within the narrow lanes and alleys of Beijing's inner-city. Every morning,Chai Tixian and his friends from the neighborhood gather in the park near their hutong and practice the sport.

Chai Tixian is the captain of his Jianzi team, which is mostly made up of retired hutong residents. Despite their age, the whole team is skilled at pulling off intricate tricks and maneuvers.

Playing kicking shuttle with other hutong residents, Chai Tixian said, helps keep him energetic and young.

A long-time resident of Liulisi Hutong, Chai Tixian has seen the hutong change over the course of his life. Though Liulisi Hutong, which is just off Beiluoguxiang, is far away from Nanluoguxiang, Chai Tixian has still observed the rapid commercialization.

"Living in Nanluoguxiang can be really inconvenient," Chai Tixian said. "For example, it is really crowded when people there go to work or schools in the morning, because there are so many cars and people."

Camera: Ian Callison & Kyle Hodges (intern)

Reporter: Ian Callison (intern)

Editor: Kyle Hodges (intern)

Subtitles: Xiong Fangzhou (intern)

Executive producer: Chen Lin

Editor's Picks
Hot words

Most Popular