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Jianzi (Chinese: 毽子), tī jianzi (踢毽子), tī jian (踢毽) or jianqiú (毽球), also known by other names, is a traditional Chinese national sport in which players aim to keep a heavily weighted shuttlecock in the air by using their bodies, apart from the hands, unlike in similar games peteca and indiaca. The primary source of jianzi sport is a Chinese ancient game called cuju of the Han dynasty 2000 years ago. By statement of FIFA's former President Blater in his visit to Beijing in 2004, "Cuju" also recognized as "primary source of Contemporary Football Sport" after he saw an ancient brick of Han dynasty with picture of a cuju player in the game, who kicks cuju ball horizontally, just like goal shooting techniques of the sport of football. Jianzi's competitive sport types are played on a badminton court using inner or outside lines in different types of jianzi's competitive sports, respectively. it can be played also artistically, among a circle of players in a street or park, with the objective to keep the shuttle 'up' and show off skills. In Vietnam, it is known as đá cầu and is the national sport. In the Philippines, it is known as sipa and was also the national sport until it was replaced by arnis in December 2009.[1] In recent years, the game has gained a formal following in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere.

In English, both the sport and the object with which it is played are referred to as "shuttlecock" or "featherball".

A traditional jianzi

Game play[edit]

Jianzi as folk sport

The shuttlecock, called a jianzi in the Chinese game and also known in English as a 'Chinese hacky sack' or 'kinja', typically has four feathers fixed into a rubber sole or plastic discs. Some handmade jianzis make use of a washer or a coin with a hole in the center.

During play, various parts of the body (except for the hands) are used to keep the shuttlecock from touching the ground. It is primarily balanced and propelled upwards using parts of the leg, especially the feet. Skilled players may employ a powerful overhead kick.[2] In China, the sport usually has two playing forms:

  • Circle kick among 5-10 people
  • Duel kick between two kickers.

Circle kick uses upward kicks only for keeping the shuttlecock from touching the ground. Duel kick has become popular among younger Chinese players, using "flat kick" techniques like goal shooting techniques in soccer sports. Therefore, the "powerful flat kick" techniques are applied in Chinese JJJ games as a major attacking skill.

Formal game[edit]

Competitively, the government-run game is called "Shuttlecockball(Jianqiu毽球)" played on a rectangular court 6.10 by 11.88 meters, divided by a net (much like badminton) at a height of 1.60 metres (1.50 metres for women).[3] A brand new game of Ti Jian Zi called "Chinese JJJ" has been invented by Mr. John Du in 2009 by video published on website www.100helps.cn,[citation needed] which uses low middle net of 90 cm and inner lines of the standard Badminton Court for different types of JJJ in 2009-10, applying soccer's shooting goal techniques for exciting attacking each other. The book "Chinese JJJ Rules & Judgement" in Chinese has been published by China Society Pressing House in May 2010, the English version of the book is translating now & will be published before the end of 2018 by author's plan. In first 2 years from 2009 to 2011, as indicated in book "Chinese JJJ Rules & judgement", 5 formal events included in Chinese JJJ just similar as in Tennis games: Men's & Women's Single, Men's & Women's Double, Mixed Double.[4][better source needed]Then in Oct. of 2011, as a major formal game currently, Team Game Rules was published on official website www.100helps.cn by Chinese JJJ Association(CJA), having 3 players on each side, and longer court as Badminton Court's Outside Bottom Line & Inner lines for wideth. As shown by Announcements and videos published on the previously mentioned website, there are 8 formal tournaments have been played in last 6 years(2009–15), including 4 "Chinese JJJ Beijing Invitational Tournaments". The first one participated by 14 teams & "German JJJ King" Martin, a former professional Soccer player from city Potsdam & student of Beijing Language University. The 2nd one participated by 28 teams & Mr. Gabriel Patin, Vice Secretary General of American JJJ Association(AJA), a Soccer fans, either. In Dec. 2012, "The 3rd Beijing Invitational Tournament" was played & participated by Swedish JJJ Team "North Pole Panda", organized by Swedish Soccer fans & bought Jianzi & Net kit from CJA by mail. As an average player's tournament, "Chinese JJJ Beijing Invitational Tournament" is widely opened to all JJJ fans of china & the World, limited by capacity of Gymnasium only. The first 8 winner-teams have rights to register to next Chinese JJJ Grand Prix with cash awards. In 2015, CJA started a "Chinese JJJ Beijing, Tianjin & Province Hebei's 3 cities Inter-city Duel Tournament". Referring to General Administration of Sport of China's official website, in city JinZhong of Province ShanXi, named by General Administration as "National Shuttlecock Model City", successfully held "The First JinZhong JJJ Invitational Tournament" on May 13, 2012, as the first JJJ tournament hosted by local government & sponsored by a big local enterprise.(Source: http://www.sport.gov.cn/n16/n33193/n33238/n34944/n36216/2912620.html)

Freestyle Shuttlecock - Jan Weber - World Footbag Champion 2011-2013

The informal game[edit]

There are several variations of the game, such as trying to keep the feathercock in the air until an agreed target of kicks (e.g. 100) is reached, either alone or in a pair. In circle play, the aim may be simply to keep play going. In all but the most competitive formats, a skillful display is a key component of play.[3] There are 2 informal games in Chinese JJJ games using the same middle net: "Team game" having 3 players on each side & "Half court game" using just a half court for double player game only.[4]


Freestyle discipline is very similar to freestyle footbag, where players perform various kicks, delays and other dexterities without touching the shuttlecock with their hands. Many footbag tricks were initially inspired by Jianzi, but later it turned the other way around and Jianzi freestylers seek inspiration in meanwhile more developed sport of footbag.


The first known version of jianzi was in the 2nd century BC in China's Han Dynasty, called cuju, which was called as "Primary Source of contemporary Soccer Sport" by FIFA's former President Blater at a press-conference of his visit to China in 2004. Then in the 5th century BC, The name da cau had place in Vietnam, meaning simply to "kick shuttlecock". The game is believed to have evolved from cuju, a game similar to football that was used as military training.[5] Over the next 1000 years, this shuttlecock game spread throughout Asia, acquiring a variety of names along the way.

Jianzi has been played since the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), and was popular during the Six Dynasties period and the Sui and Tang dynasties. Thus the game has a history of two thousand years. Several ancient books attest to its being played.[2]

Shuttlecock player

Modern history[edit]

Jianzi came to Europe in 1936, when a Chinese athlete from the province of Jiangsu performed a demonstration at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. In Germany and other countries people began to learn and play the sport, now called "shuttlecock".

In June 1961, a film about the sport called The Flying Feather was made by the Chinese central news movie company, winning a gold medal at an international movie festival.[2] In 1963, jianzi was taught by teachers in elementary school so that it became even more popular.

Well known in Asia, the game has been gaining popularity in Europe. The International Shuttlecock Federation (ISF) was founded in 1999. The first world championship was organized by Hungary in Újszász in 2000. Until then, various countries took turns organizing championships.

The sport continues to receive greater recognition, and was included as a sport in the 2003 Southeast Asian Games and in the Chinese National Peasants' Games. Among the members of ISF are China, Taiwan, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Laos, Vietnam, Greece, France, Romania, and Serbia. Vietnam and China are generally considered best, while in Europe, Hungary and Germany are strongest. On August 11, 2003, delegates from Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia founded the Shuttlecock Federation of Europe (S.F.E.) in Ujszasz (Hungary).

After being invented in 2009, Chinese JJJ got much faster spreading all over China due to its techniques similar to soccer sport, its simple skills friendly to beginners and its fun for skilled players.

In June 2010, Chinese JJJ's "The First Beijing Invitational Tournament" held successfully, having participation by foreign players such as "German Shuttlecock King" Martin, who was a former professional soccer player before studying in Beijing. In 2 years till May 2011, there were foreign players of more than 10 countries played the game, proving firmly the game's attractiveness to soccer players. In 2011, the first formal Chinese JJJ Championship will hold in province ShanDong, and a couple of other provinces are planned to follow.[citation needed]

In August 2011, an American company released a toy called Kikbo based on jianzi.[6]

In 2013, a patented invention, KickShuttle, was introduced to the public by a Hong Kong company. KickShuttle is a revolutionary form of jianzi that is not made with feather. Yet it is similarily light-weight and easy-to-maneuver, and more durable, versatile, and hygienic.[7]

Health benefits[edit]

Playing shuttlecock is a vigorous aerobic exercise, and provides the health benefits of any active sport. It also helps to build hand-eye coordination.[citation needed]

Shuttlecock sport Jianzi

Official jianzi for competitions[edit]

The official featherball used in the sport of shuttlecock consists of four equal-length goose or duck feathers conjoint at a rubber or plastic base. It weighs approximately 15-25 grams. The total length is 15 to 21 cm. The feathers vary in color, usually dyed red, yellow, blue and/or green. However, in competitions a white featherball is preferred. The Official Jianzi for Competitions The shuttlecock used in Chinese JJJ games weighs 24-25 grams. The height from the bottom of rubber base to top of the shuttlecock is 14–15 cm, the width between tops of two opposite feathers is 14–15 cm.

Other names[edit]

  • Israel - נוצה or נוצ
  • United States - Chinese hacky sack or kikbo[6] or KickShuttle
  • Hungary - lábtoll-labda
  • Canada - kikup
  • Vietnam - đá cầu
  • Malaysia - sepak bulu ayam
  • Singapore (and SE Asia) - chapteh or capteh or chatek
  • Japan - kebane (蹴羽根)
  • Korea - jegichagi or jeigi (to most Koreans known as sports only for children)
  • Indonesia - bola bulu tangkis or sepak kenchi
  • Philippines - larong sipa
  • Macau - chiquia
  • India - poona (forerunner of badminton) (unknown to most Indians)
  • Greece - podopterisi
  • France - plumfoot or pili
  • Poland - zośka
  • Germany - Federfußball
  • The Netherlands - "voetpluim" or "voet pluim" or "jianzi"
  • Cambodia - sey
  • México - gallito
  • Sweden - spunky or adde-boll
  • UK - featherdisk
  • Ireland - kickum[8]

Related games, derivatives and variants[edit]

Sepak takraw is popular in Thailand, using a light rattan ball about five inches in diameter. (Sepak means "kick" in Malay, and takraw means "ball" in Thai.)

Indiaca or featherball is played with the same shuttlecock as jianzi but on a court, similar to a badminton court, and played over the net using the hands.[9]

Kemari was played in Japan (Heian Period). It means "strike the ball with the foot".

Chinlone is a non-competitive Burmese game that uses a rattan ball and is played only in the circle form, not on a court.


  1. ^ "Republic Act No. 9850". The LawPhil Project. 
  2. ^ a b c "History of Shuttlecock Sport". Iordanis Stavridis. 2002-02-14. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  3. ^ a b Rules
  4. ^ a b [1]
  5. ^ "History of Shuttlecock Sport". Iordanis Stavridis. 2002-02-14. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  6. ^ a b "Kikbo Kick Shuttlecocks, Patent Pending Toy Based on Jianzi". Website. Retrieved 23 September 2011.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Kikbo_Kick_Shuttlecocks.2C_Patent_Pending_Toy_Based_on_Jianzi" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  7. ^ "KickShuttle™, patented invention, a revolutionary form of jianzi not made with feather". Website. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Kickum Based on Jianzi". Website. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  9. ^ The Featherball - a handy game around the world


  • "Chinese JJJ Rules and Judgement", by John Du, Beijing, May 2010, by China Society Pressing House

External links[edit]