The elderly, brain-washed Emperor walked into the Forbidden City (now the palace Museum in Beijing), took out a dust-covered cricket pot from under his chair and passed it to a boy who watched him with intense curiosity. People who have seen the film will remember this as one of the closing scenes to "The Last Emperor." The scene vividly paints the picture of Chinese Cricket Culture. The tradition of favoring singing insects and fighting crickets has ancient roots and has been handed down throughout the generations to the present day.
Cricket Culture in China encompasses a 2000 year history of both singing insects and fighting crickets. Two millennium of tradition may be divided into three eras. From times prior to the Tang dynasty (500 B.C. - 618 A.D.), people only appreciated the cricket's powerful tunes. During the Tang dynasty (618 - 907A.D.), the imperial concubines used small gold cages to accommodate crickets and took them to bed to hear their singing during the night. Ordinary people copied what they saw as a graceful hobby. Under the Song dynasty (960 - 1279 A.D.), cricket fighting flourished as a popular sport. It is beyond the scope of this paper to produce a complete historic or chronological overview. Such activity was still flourishing during the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), when the Emperor's family, city residents or village men and scholars, all collected crickets feverishly every summer.
No one knows why this small insect has been such a big success with Chinese people. But poems, essays and even learned research about the creature have been passed down from antiquity.
A big body, big jaws and a black face are the standard of excellence for a cricket. But to find a good one is not easy.
Fu Cun, who has 20 years experience of cricket fighting, said when he went out to catch crickets he often waited in the field a whole day for the right one. "If I can find one good specimen in a day, it can be seen as very lucky," he said. "With environmental deterioration, finding good ones is even harder these days."