Object: Woven Ball

Myanmar: Woven Ball
20th Century
Materials: Rattan

This ball made of strips of woven rattan is called a chinlone, which is the Burmese word for “cane-ball”. Chinlone is a sport that has been played in Myanmar (formerly Burma) for over 1500 years, and was traditionally a performance for royalty. Over time the sport has evolved from mere entertainment to a game of athleticism, concentration, and grace. The goal of the game is to keep the chinlone from touching the ground by using your feet and knees. But rather than scoring points, the players attempt to keep the ball up with dynamic, dance-like moves. The form and position of the body is an important aesthetic of the game, as well as the ball itself, which makes an audible clicking noise. A video of the game can be seen here.

Cleaning Rattan Strips

The largest festival which garners the most chinlone teams is a Buddhist festival called Waso, which is highlighted in a documentary called Mystic Ball. A clip from the documentary can be seen here. Not only is chinlone a leisure sport, it is also considered by some to be a spiritual activity. The focus required to keep the ball in the air is likened to meditation and is called jhana, which has the same etymological roots as the Buddhist term zen. Similar sports are played throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand. The origins of the game are thought to come from an ancient Chinese game call cuju or tsu chu, which is now recognized by FIFA as the earliest form of soccer.

[Daniel Gonzalez]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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