Cuju is to kick a ball with feet. Cu means kicking with feet, while Ju refers to a kind of leather ball stuffed with feathers. So combined together, Cuju means to play the ball with feet. As a kind of ancient Chinese sport, it is the prototype of the contemporary football.
The form of Cuju is similar to that of modern football, but it has many kinds of playing modes and skills, and can be divided into three types: direct-fight, indirect-fight and individual playing.
With a history of about 2300 years, it started from Linzi, capital of Qi State during the Spring- Autumn and Warring States Period. It achieved great development in the Han Dynasty, and due to its popularity, 25 Articles on Cuju, a research work on Cuju appeared, which is the earliest sports research work in China and also the first professional sports book in the world. The heyday of Cuju is in the Tang and Song Dynasties, and the fresco Picture of Playing Cuju on the Horses depicts the scene of the nobles playing Cuju on horses. Cuju got huge development in the Song Dynasty. There are some descriptions of the Emperor playing Cuju with the court officers in the ancient classic Water Margin.
Cuju has exerted great influence on modern football. In the Tang Dynasty, Chinese Cuju spread to Japan and Korea in the east and Europe in the west, and evolved into modern football in Britain. On June 9, 2004, the Forum on Football Game Originating was held in Linzi District, Zibo City of Shandong province, and achieved the consensus that ancient Cuju originated from Linzi, capital of the Qi State during the Spring and Autumn Period and Warring States Period. On July 15, 2004, on the press conference of the Third China International Football EXPO, FIFA(Federation International Football Association) and AFC(Asian Football Confederation) jointly announced that China is the birthplace of football game, and the world football originated from Cuju game in Linzi District, Zibo, Shandong Province of China.