The Ancient History of Cuju
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and one of the oldest ball games in history. About 2,500 years ago a game called Cuju, a game much like our modern-day soccer, was already being played in China. Cuju is officially recognized by FIFA (the international soccer association) as the predecessor to the game of soccer. In Chinese, the word: “cù” means “to kick” and “jú” means a leather ball filled with feathers used in the game. Literally translated from Chinese, “cùjú” means “to kick a ball.”
In ancient China, the earliest form of Cuju was originally used as a military exercise. However, archeologists discovered a book in China on Cuju entitled, “Twenty-Five Articles on Cuju” which was written during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 24). In this book, Cuju is explained as being played by two teams on a field with goals, and the matches were officiated by referees who followed prescribed rules. Cuju rules and methods underwent many changes during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618 – 907). Instructive illustrations of ancient Cuju were found dating from AD 1322. During this epoch, the game of Cuju revolved around a single goal (or wangzi) located at the center of the play field. This goal had a net that was 10.5 meters high and 3 meters wide. The actual target within the net was the “prominent eye”: an 85 centimeter, circular hole in the middle of the net located between the two crossbars. The object of this ancient version of Cuju was for each of the two teams to kick the ball through this hole in the net. Chinese literature exists which refers to this opening as a “bull’s-eye” (or zhengsai). The team which scored the most points by kicking the ball through the bull’s-eye was the winner of a Cuju match.
The Modern Version of Cuju
With this Cuju Game Set,the timeless dynamics of one of the world’s oldest ball games ever is revived: “Cuju – The Ancient Game of Soccer™”. Cuju is the progenitor of Soccer – the world’s most popular sport! This modern version of Cuju is a fun and efficient soccer-based game that can be played by multiple players in a small or large play area. The goal of the game is to use soccer skills to kick, to head or to knee the Cuju ball through the large holes located within the Cuju net. The Cuju ball is a special oversized ball that emulates the larger and lighter ball of the ancient game of Chinese Cuju. This special ball helps make Cuju a very inclusive and user-friendly game for all ages and skill levels. This exciting game provides a fun way to motivate the players to develop physical coordination and cooperative play attitudes in an inclusive and fun-filled environment. For those who are familiar with soccer, the game rules of Cuju will be very quickly mastered as the rules of Cuju are very similar to soccer.
How to Play Cuju
- In the game of Cuju, there is only one goal (wangzi) that is placed at the center of the play area. Select an appropriate outdoor or indoor play area, then place the Cuju goal in the middle of the play area (see the diagram). The dual-sided goal, located at the middle of the play area, guarantees numerous occasions for shots and rebounds by both teams.
- If using a soccer field, place the Cuju goal on the center line in the middle of the field and use the lined field for the boundaries of the play area. If using an indoor basketball court, place the Cuju goal on the half-court line in the middle of the basketball court. Use the basketball court lines for boundaries, or like indoor soccer, have the students play off of the walls with no out-of-bounds lines. For any other type of play area, simply place the Cuju goal in the middle of the play area and determine the boundaries, or play with no boundaries depending on the size of your play area.
- Divide the class into two teams with up to 7 students on each team. The Cuju game involves 14 total players at once. Note for larger classes: more students and teams can be substituted in and out at predetermined times, or after a certain number of points have been scored by a given team.
- The teacher shall be the referee for the Cuju match.
Game Rules for Cuju
- Based on the Rules of Soccer: Since Cuju is the progenitor of soccer, the rules of soccer have been used as the basis for the specific rules of this version of modern Cuju.
- The Kickoff: After the coin toss, the game of Cuju begins with a kickoff. One team kicks the ball into play from just outside the touchline.
- Player Movement: All players from both teams may move freely around the play area on both sides of the Cuju goal.
- Ball Movement: As in soccer, hands are not allowed for advancing the ball down field (except for a throw-in). The ball is advanced by dribbling, passing and shooting by means of kicking, heading and kneeing the ball.
- Scoring: In the game of Cuju, any team player may shoot at any target hole from either side of the single Cuju net located at the center of the play area at any time. To score in Cuju, a player must kick or head the ball through one of the three target holes located in the Cuju net. Point Values: The two smaller target holes situated at the top section of the Cuju net have the greater value of 2 points each. The one larger target hole at the bottom center of the Cuju net has a value of 1 point each.
- After Scoring: Once a goal is scored, the ball is placed just outside the touchline by the opposing team and kicked back into play.
- No Goalies and No Goal Tending: There are no goalies in the game of Cuju. There are only defenders who cannot use their hands at anytime. Defenders are not allowed to “goal tend”. In other words, defenders cannot block their own target holes by standing still in front of them. Rather, they must only defend the ball wherever it moves. If a defender is cited by the referee for goal tending, then the offensive team is given a direct penalty kick opportunity (see description below).
- Direct Penalty Kicks: Direct penalty kicks are awarded to the opposing team for goal tending, hand-balls or misconduct. In a direct penalty kick, the ball is placed seven meters away from the goal and a player is selected to shoot undefended at the target holes. If the shot misses, the ball is once again in play.
- Missed Shots: Once a shot-on-goal is missed, if the ball rebounds off of the net, then play continues non-stop. If the ball misses and goes to the other side of the center field Cuju net, then any player may rebound the ball and immediately kick or head the ball toward the target holes to score. The dual-sided goal, located at the middle of the play area, guarantees numerous occasions for shots and rebounds by both teams. The Cuju net has a space between the bottom of the net and the ground allowing for the dynamic of passing the ball underneath it at any time.
- The Throw-in: When the ball goes out-of-bounds, the team who touched the ball last forfeits the ball to the other team who then throws the ball back into play from just outside the boundary line. This throw-in is like a soccer throw-in: the ball is held overhead with both hands while both feet remain on the ground. During a throw-in, the ball cannot be thrown directly into a target hole.
- End of Game: The game of Cuju is played to a predetermined time limit. The team with the most points wins. In the event of a tie at the end of the game, five players from each team are selected for a penalty kick shoot-out. The ball is placed seven meters away from the goal, and players from each team shoot at the target holes alternatively. The team with the most points after this shoot-out wins.
Glossary of the Chinese Terms for Cuju
- Cuju (蹴鞠) – name for the 2,500 year old ancient Chinese game from which we get the game of soccer. “cu” means to kick; “ju” means a ball. Literal meaning of “Cuju”: “to kick a ball”.
- wangzi – a type of ancient Cuju goal used in China. It was a singular goal that was 10.5 meters high and 3 meters wide located at the center of the play field. The wangzi goal contained one bull’s-eye target hole in the middle of its net called a zhengsai.
- zhengsai – the actual target within the wangzi goal net. The zhengsai was the “prominent eye”: an 85 centimeter, circular hole in the middle of the net located between the two crossbars. The object of this ancient version of Cuju was for each of the two teams to kick the ball through this hole in the net.
Click below to view our PDF Activity Guide