There are strong sporting traditions, going back centuries, in China. In 2004, FIFA officially acknowledged China as the birthplace of football. A forerunner of the modern game of football, known as cuju, was first played in China 2000 years ago. The Chinese Football Association was founded in the People's Republic of China in 1949 and today Chinese football enjoys an enthusiastic following and international success, with the women's national side taking second place at both the World Championships and the Olympic Games and the men's side qualifying for the 2002 World Cup.
Golf is popular and in 2005 the HSBC Champions tournament was introduced at the Shehsan Golf Club in Shanghai. The prize fund of $5m is higher than for any golfing event previously held in Asia and attracts top professional players from around the world to the city. Further information about the tournament is available on the HSBC Golf web site.
Physical fitness is an important element of Chinese culture and you will often see group exercises taking place in parks and schools before work starts for the day. Martial arts are popular and many different styles and techniques are practiced throughout the country.
Basketball is a favourite amongst the young and the NBA has a huge following in China. Many urban youngsters meet to play in their spare time.
The traditional Chinese sport of dragon boat racing has gained worldwide popularity. Teams in long, narrow rowing boats, decorated with ornate dragons heads, compete against one another, rowing to the beat of a drum. It is thought that the sport originated in South Central China 2500 years ago, and formed part of the ritual celebrations and worship of the Asian dragon, a water deity. There are now dragon boat racing teams in many countries and it is thought that up to 50 million Chinese are actively involved in the sport. A world championship tournament takes place every two years, and many festivals and racing weekends are organised worldwide.