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Two people playing jianzi
A traditional jianzi
Playing jianzi in Beijing's Temple of Heaven park.

Jianzi (Chinese: 毽子), tī jianzi (踢毽子), tī jian (踢毽) or jianqiú (毽球), 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 is a Chinese ancient game called Cuju of the Han dynasty 2,000 years ago. Jianzi's competitive sport types are played on a badminton court using inner or outer lines in different types of jianzi's competitive sports, respectively. It can also be played 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 around the globe. In English, both the sport and the object with which it is played are referred to as a "shuttlecock" or "featherball". The game is also popular in Malaysia, where it is known as "Capteh" or "Chapteh."[2] It's a children's game before they can master "Sepak Raga".


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 centre.

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.[3] In China, the sport usually has two playing forms:

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

The circle kick uses upward kicks only when keeping the shuttlecock from touching the ground. The duel kick has become popular among younger Chinese players, and uses "flat kick" techniques like goal shooting techniques in soccer sports. Therefore, the "powerful flat kick" techniques are applied in Chinese games as a major attacking skill.

Formal game[edit]

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

Competitively, the government-run game is called "Hacky-Sack (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 meters (1.50 meters for women).[4] A new style of Ti Jian Zi called "Chinese JJJ" was introduced in 2009.[citation needed] "JJJ" stands for "Competitive Jianzi-kicking" in Chinese with the three Chinese characters "竞技毽" all with "J" as the first letter. This version uses a lower middle net of 90 cm and inner or outside lines of the standard badminton court.

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.[4] 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.[5][better source needed]


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 looked for inspiration from the more developed sport of footbag.


Painting by Shen Qinglan (18th-19th century) of children playing jianzi

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. The game is believed to have evolved from cuju, a game similar to football that was used as military training.[6] Several ancient books attest to its being played.[3] Over time, the game spread throughout Asia, acquiring a variety of names along the way. Jianzi has been played for many many centuries.

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".

The International Shuttlecock Federation (ISF) was founded in 1999 and the first world championship was organized by Hungary in Újszász in 2000. Up until this point, various countries took turns organizing championships. The sport continues to receive 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 is highly regarded, having won the world championship for ten consecutive years. On 11 August 2003, delegates from Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia founded the Shuttlecock Federation of Europe (S.F.E.) in Újszász, Hungary.

After being invented in 2009, Chinese JJJ spread throughout China due to its techniques similar to football. In June 2010, Chinese JJJ's "The First Beijing Invitational Tournament" held, with players from more than 10 countries participating. In 2011, the first formal Chinese JJJ Championship was held in Shandong province, with other provinces planned to follow.[citation needed]

In June 1961, a film about the sport called The Flying Feather was made by the Chinese central news agency, winning a gold medal at an international film festival.[3]

In August 2011, an American company released a toy called Kikbo based on jianzi.[7]

In 2013, a Hong Kong company released KickShuttle. It is a form of shuttlecock not made of feather with similar weight.[8]

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 pink 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.

Related games, derivatives and variants[edit]

Vietnamese da cau players. Natives of Cochin China, playing at Shittlecock with their Feet, watercolour painting on wove paper by William Alexander, circa 1792.


  1. ^ "Republic Act No. 9850". The LawPhil Project.
  2. ^ "Capteh | Infopedia". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 2021-04-15.
  3. ^ a b c "History of Shuttlecock Sport". Iordanis Stavridis. 2002-02-14. Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
  4. ^ a b "Rules". Archived from the original on 2008-09-24. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
  5. ^ "百和网/夜北京". Archived from the original on 2017-10-22. Retrieved 2022-07-10.
  6. ^ "History of Shuttlecock Sport". Iordanis Stavridis. 2002-02-14. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  7. ^ "Kikbo Kick Shuttlecocks, Patent Pending Toy Based on Jianzi". Website. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  8. ^ "shuttlecock for kicking footbag with wings". Website. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  9. ^ The Featherball - a handy game around the world
  10. ^ "Featherball, what is it ? - healthy sport for kids". The Bitcoin Family. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2021.


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

External links[edit]