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Ancient China

Entertainment and Games

History >> Ancient China

Most people in Ancient China spent the majority of their time working. For much of the year they worked all day long with no days off. However, there were festivals throughout the year where they had the chance to play games and be entertained.

Man playing the guqin
Songhuizong8 by Zhao Ji
[Public Domain]


Music was an important part of Ancient Chinese culture. Early instruments were bells and chimes. Over time, new instruments were developed including flutes and string instruments (like the guqin). Music was often intertwined with philosophy. For example, in some ages, music was said to bring harmony to nature through the yin and yang of Taoism.

Dance and Acrobatics

Dance was an important art form since the earliest Chinese dynasties. It reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty. Acrobatics was also a popular form of entertainment since at least the Qin Dynasty in 207 BC. Acrobatics and dance were often combined with other forms of entertainment such as juggling, martial arts, and music.


Around the end of the Zhou Dynasty, music, acting, and dance became combined into Chinese opera. In Chinese opera, performers wear elaborate costumes and tell stories of famous Chinese legends and heroes through song and dance. Chinese opera is still a popular form of entertainment today.


The kite was invented in China around 500 BC. At first the kite was mostly used for military purposes. During the Tang Dynasty, however, kites became a popular form of entertainment. Kites were made from paper or silk with bamboo frames. Many kites were decorated to the point that they were works of art as much as toys.

Board Games

The Chinese enjoyed playing a variety of board games. One of the most popular was Go (also called weiqi). Go was invented sometime around 500 BC. Over time, Go became so popular that it became one of the Four Scholarly Arts that were to be mastered by all Chinese gentlemen. Go is a game of strategy. It is played on a grid with small black and white pieces called "stones."

Card Games

Playing cards were invented in China during the Tang Dynasty. The typical pack of cards contained 30 cards. The cards had suits and values. The Ancient Chinese developed a wide variety of card games that they played using these cards.


Many wealthy people in the latter dynasties of Ancient China enjoyed to read for entertainment. Poetry was very important throughout much of Ancient Chinese history. People would recite and write poetry for pleasure. Novels became more popular during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The "Four Great Classical Novels" of Chinese literature were written during these dynasties. They are Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber.

Interesting Facts about Entertainment and Games in Ancient China

For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:

Timeline of Ancient China
Geography of Ancient China
Silk Road
The Great Wall
Forbidden City
Terracotta Army
The Grand Canal
Battle of Red Cliffs
Opium Wars
Inventions of Ancient China
Glossary and Terms

Major Dynasties
Xia Dynasty
Shang Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty
Han Dynasty
Period of Disunion
Sui Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
Song Dyanasty
Yuan Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
Qing Dynasty

Daily Life in Ancient China
Numbers and Colors
Legend of Silk
Chinese Calendar
Civil Service
Chinese Art
Entertainment and Games

Kangxi Emperor
Genghis Khan
Kublai Khan
Marco Polo
Puyi (The Last Emperor)
Emperor Qin
Emperor Taizong
Sun Tzu
Empress Wu
Zheng He
Emperors of China

Works Cited

History >> Ancient China

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