Ju was a kind of rubber ball made of leather outside and stuffed tightly with feather inside. Cuju means "kick the ball with foot". It was a popular sport played by ancient Chinese during the Qingming Festival. Legend has it that the Yellow Emperor was the initiator of cuju, who invented it to train his soldiers.
Started from the Warring States Period, ju was made of leather outside and stuffed with feather inside, which made it light and elastic. Until the Tang Dynasty, inflated afterbirth of animals was used to replace the leather and feather, thus the basic form of football took shape. The cuju game could be a competitive match of two teams with a goal on each side, or single-player or two-player activity in which no goal was set and the score decided the winner.
During the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. -220 A.D.), cuju was not only the recreational activity of the general public, but also an important means of military training. The activity was direct competition of two teams, having special play ground with two goals and fixed number of players. During the match, the players ran and strived to control the ball like fighting against the enemy in the battle, displaying its strong antagonism. And there was a referee specially set to guarantee the fairness of the game. It was the first prime time of cuju.
After the Han Dynasty, the antagonistic cuju match with two goals evolved into a goal shooting performance with a single goal. During the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, the cuju game with a single goal or two goals phased out of the history stage, while the cuju activity without goals continued until the Qing Dynasty. The skating-loving Manchurians even combined cuju with skating, creating a new sports called "cuju on the ice" to train the lifeguards.
Cuju and the Song Dynasty
The Northern Song Dynasty witnessed an unprecedented development of the cuju game, which became a socialized sport of the cities. In the imperial palace, the emperor and the court officials loved cuju, so professional men and women cuju teams were formed in the palace. Zhao Kuangyin, Emperor Taizu of Song, was a cuju player himself. Judging by the circumstance, cuju first rose in the imperial palace, and then gradually extended to the residential area of the civilians, thus gaining extensive popularity. During the festivals in the downtown area of Kaifeng, the cuju game could be seen everywhere, and a few fixed cuju play grounds were established. On a birthday of Emperor Huizong of Song, a grand single-goal cuju performance match was held in the imperial palace, each team having ten-odd players and a team leader. The uniforms of both teams differed in color. The scene was spectacular: there were drum corps and rooters to cheer up the players, while on the ground players were in fierce competition.