Monday, January 21, 2013

Bei Kuo:
Hitting a Ball Made of Apricot Root

The Daur people are descendants of the rowdy Khitan nomads who founded the Liao Dynasty in the tenth century. Like fellow ex-banes of China the Mongols, Daurs excel at riding, shooting and wrestling. They also play bei kuo, a version of field hockey.
Using meter-long oak sticks and a ball made of apricot root, the Daurs never bothered with shooting goals. The object is to smack the apricot-root ball over the other team’s boundary line, 50 meters apart.
For the Daur, any festival day is an excuse for an extended game of bei kuo. Young and old alike are encouraged to take part, provided they understand the risks. The preferred method of playing bei kuo is at night, with the ball dipped in oil and set aflame. Bei kuo is still popular among the Daur, who continue to play without pads or asbestos vests.

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