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Ti Jian Zi – The Ancient Art of Shuttlecock Kicking

One of the most popular traditional Chinese arts, Ti Jian Zi, known in the western world as shuttlecock kicking, requires a great deal of skill and practice.

The game of shuttlecock kicking is believed to have been invented sometime during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and gradually increased in popularity,  to a point where shops that specialized in the making of shuttlecocks began appearing all over China. The art of shuttlecock kicking reached its climax during the Qing Dynasty, when competitions were held between masters of the game from all over the country.

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Toro Jubilo Festival Makes Bullfighting Look Like Child’s Play

If you thought bullfighting was cruel and barbaric, you’ll soon learn there are far worse ways to kill an innocent animal in the name of primitive entertainment.

Every year, on the second weekend of November, a horrific show takes place in the streets of Medinacelli, an otherwise picturesque Spanish town. As soon as the sun sets, bulls are brought into the town square, surrounded and restrained by the “bravest” of participants. Big balls of pitch are attached to the bull’s horns and the animal is set loose through the town.

This savage bull run is known as Toro Jubilo, and the bull is called Toro de Fuego, which translates as “bull of Fire”. As the pitch burns like a bonfire on the horns, it scorches his eyes and face causing it unspeakable pain. Disoriented and in agony, the bull often runs into walls and hurts himself even more, while the crowd run around him and cheers.

After hours of immense pain and eventually being blinded by the flames, the bull dies in agony. If this wasn’t cruel enough, the animal’s carcass is cut up and split among the participants to the event. Toro Jubilo is viewed simply as a form of entertainment by the people of Medinacelli, but this kind of animal cruelty doen’t qualify as such.

If you feel this is an old tradition that should continue, in the name of cultural diversity, just read this post, look at the photos and get back to what you were doing, but if you want to put a stop to it, make sure you sign this petition (I did) and share it with your friends.

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The Mysterious Scissors Dancers of Peru

Performed in the central and southern highlands of Peru, the Scissors Dance is a traditional event that tests the physical and spiritual strength of the participants.

Westerners usually regard “La Danza de las Tijeras” as a physical test where two men have to prove their dexterity and resistance to pain, but to the people of the Andes, this dance is a sacred ritual. The dancers, called danzaq, perform difficult stunts and leaps, called atipanakuy, accompanied by the music of a violin, a harp and the sound of the scissors they each hold in their hands. So much about not playing with scissors, right?

The origin of the danzaq and their Scissors Dance is shrouded in mystery, but some anthropologists believe they appeared in 1524, during the rebellion against Spanish colonial rule. According to old Spanish chronicles, Huancas (pre-Hispanic deities) possessed the bodies of indigenous young men, allowing them to perform an impossible-looking dance signaling the return of the Old Gods to vanquish the Christian God of the Spanish. As we all know, that didn’t happen, but the tradition of the Scissors Dance was kept alive by the Andean people.

It’s almost impossible to believe someone can accomplish this kind of acrobatic moves, while handling a pair of scissors made out of two individual sheets of metal, 25 cm each, but the danzaq do much more. To show spiritual superiority, they go through a series of challenges that include sticking sharp objects through their bodies, eating glass or walking on fire. The Scissors Dance is sometimes performed continuously for hours, until one of the competitors proves his superiority.

The best Scissors Dances can be witnessed in Ayacucho, Apurimac, Arequipa, Huancavelica and Lima.

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The Weird Nose Plugs of the Apatani Women

Women of the Apatani Tribe, in India’s Apatani plateau, are famous for the bizarre nose plugs they’ve been wearing since times long passed.

The Apatani, or Tani, are a tribal group of about 60,000 members, often praised for their extremely efficient agriculture, performed without animals or machinery. They have no written record of their history, and traditions are passed down orally, from generation to generation.

One tradition that is quickly fading into the mist of time is the traditional Apatani nose plugs, worn by most of the elder women in the tribe. There was once a time when every woman had to wear these bizarre accessories, but since the middle of the 20th century, the custom began to die. According to the Apatani, the nose plug was born as a way of protecting the women of the tribe. Apparently, Apatani women have always been considered the most beautiful among the Arunachal tribes, their villages were constantly raided by neighboring tribes, and the women kidnapped.

To make themselves unattractive to the other tribes, Apatani women began wearing these hideous nose plugs and tattooing their faces with a horizontal line from the forehead to the tip of the nose, and five lines on their chins. Let’s face it, that turns off any raider in search of beautiful women to have his way with.

But the tradition of the Apatani nose plug hasn’t been practiced by any woman born after 1970, and as time passes, this custom will probably soon be forgotten. Well, at least we still have the Ethiopian lip plug.

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Jallikattu – India’s Answer to Spanish Bullfighting

In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, people don’t need red capes and sharp swords to tame bulls, they do it with their bare hands, in a sport called Jallikkattu.

The ancient sport of Jallikattu pits crowds of brave young men against angry bulls who will tear anyone apart, if they get in the way. The name of the sport comes from the words “salli”, which translates as “coin”, and “kadu”, which means tying the coin to the horns of the raging bull. The goal of Jallikattu players is to tame the bull long enough to claim the prize.

But that’s is a lot harder than it sounds, especially since the bulls used for Jallikattu are extremely aggressive, and the players aren’t allowed to defend themselves with anything else but their bare hands. The bravest of the young men will try to grab the hump of the bull, and hang on, while the beast will most often grab him with its long horns and plunge him into the ground.

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Baby Crying Festival Held in Japan

No mother likes it when her toddler starts crying, but at the Naki Sumo baby crying contest wailing is actually encouraged.

Held every year, at the Sensoji Temple, in Tokyo, the baby crying festival is a 400-year-old tradition, believed to keep rug-rats in good health. Amateur sumo wrestlers hold the babies high in the air, and try to scare them into crying, while a sumo referee judges the match. The toddler who cries longest and loudest is considered the winner.

Japanese parents bring the babies to the contest, of their own free will, and truly believe the sumo induced crying keeps their children in good health, and wards off evil spirits. This year, 80 babies, all under one year old, participated in Naki Sumo. As you might have guessed, the whiniest contender won.

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Onbashira – Japan’s Riskiest Celebration

Held every six years, in the Nagano area of Japan, Onbashira Festival is believed to have continued uninterruptedly, for the last 1200 years.

Onbashira, literally translated as “the sacred pillars”, is a Japanese tradition that symbolizes the renewal of Suwa Grand Shrine. It consists of two phases: Yamadashi and Satobiki, the first held in April, and the second in May. Before Onbashira begins, 16 tree trunks, cut form 200-year-old Japanese fir trees are cut down. Each tree can be up to 1 meter across, 16 meters tall and weigh up to 12 tons.

Yamadashi is translated as “coming out of the mountains” and is the most popular part of the festival. Teams of men have to drag the logs down the mountain, to Suwa Shrine. At some points they encounter steep slopes where they must slide the tree trunks. In a ceremony called Ki-otoshi, brave young men risk their lives by climbing on the trunks and riding the all the way down the muddy slopes. It takes 3 days to move the sacred tree trunks, over 10 kilometers, to the shrine.

Satobiki involves placing the logs at the four corners of the four buildings that make up Suwa Grand Shrine. Using ropes, teams have to pull up the giant tree trunks in a vertical position, with young men sitting on them. Those still on the logs after they are positioned, perform all sort of feats.

On Sunday, during the 2010 edition of Onbashira Festival, a man was crushed to death by a tree trunk, during Satobiki. One of the ropes came loose and hit the 38-year-old man in the head. Several others were injured in the accident.

Photos via Daylife

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Bolivia’s Day of the Skulls

Dia de los Natitas (Day of the Skulls) is an ancient Bolivian ritual where skulls are decorated with flowers and pampered with cigarettes, coca leaves and other treats.

Every November 9, the central cemetery, in La Paz, Bolivia, becomes the scene of a bizarre pre-Columbian tradition, known as Dia de los Natitas.  Women carrying skulls, in decorated wooden or cardboard boxes, fancy glass cases and even in plastic bags, gather outside the cemetery to show off their skulls. They are usually decorated with flower petals (hydrangeas and roses) and covered with knitted colorful caps.

Some Bolivians believe a person has seven souls, and one of them remains in the skeleton, after they’ve been buried. Once the other souls have left for heaven, the remains are dug up and the skull taken home and cared for. If they’re not respected, skulls can bring bad luck to a household, ruin the harvest and even break up a family. But if they’re properly taken care of, you can ask the skull for favors.

A big part of caring for the skull is represented by the Dia de Las Natitas celebration. Skulls are offered cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol and are even serenaded by street musicians. Read More »

Wet Monday in the Ukraine

Known as an ancient tradition, in central-European countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, Wet Monday appears to be very popular in Ukraine, as well. It takes place on the second day of Easter

Wet Monday started out, in Poland,as a pagan custom that symbolize cleansing, with the coming of Spring. When Christianity became the main religion, Wet Monday was adopted as a Christian ritual, related to cleansing souls of sins. The truth is people loved this tradition so much, they found a way to keep it, by associating it with religion.

On Wet Monday. boys and men armed with bottles and buckets of water, chase after girls and splash them from head to toe. According to the original custom, the most beautiful girl in a village would be the wettest, but nowadays, boys just splash any girl they see. At one point, the tradition got so out of hand that boys threw buckets of water, at girls, threw their car windows.

With the current water shortage the world is facing right now, some would say this is a terrible waste, but the boys with water bottles wouldn’t dream of abandoning this ancient tradition. just look at those happy faces.

The photos below were taken on Wet Monday, in the Ukrainian city of Lviv. They are copyright of  Yurko Dyachyshyn.

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The Bubblegum Alley of San Luis Obispo

The “most talked-about landmark” of San Luis Obispo, California, the Bubblegum Alley is a 21 meter-long alley lined with chewed-up pieces of bubblegum.

The exact history of the Bubblegum Alley is unknown, but there are a few theories about how this sticky tradition began. Some say it started during World War II, as a graduating class event, while others are convinced it dates back to the 1950s, as the result of the rivalry between San Luis Obispo High-School and Cal Poly. Whatever its beginnings, by the 70s, Bubblegum Alley was already covered with plenty of gooey material.

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Christmas Has a Festive Tree, So Why Not Easter?

It makes sense doesn’t it? Easter is a major Christian holiday too, so it should have its own version of the popular Christmas Tree.

Strangely enough, such a thing as an Easter tree already exists, and it can be found in Germany. Around 1945, when he was just a young boy, Volker Kraft saw his very first Easter Tree (Eierbaum, Osterbaum or Ostereirbaum, in German), and decided he would have one of his very own, when he grew up. Time passed and young Volker became a married man, with a family and everything. But his childhood dream stuck with him and he decorated his first Easter Tree, in 1965. He used 18 colored plastic eggs.

But the tree was growing fast and he and his wife, Christa couldn’t afford to waste so many Easter eggs. So they began drilling holes into the eggs, using the contents in the kitchen, and the painted shells as decorations. When their children grew up, they started helping with the decorating,and the Easter Tree became a family tradition, known not only in their home town of Saalfeld, but all of Germany.

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Chinese Woman Has the Smallest Feet in the World

Ms Liu, a 90-years-old woman from China is the current record holder for the smallest feet in the world.

Foot binding was an important tradition in China until the early 20th century. There are several theories regarding how a gruesome custom like foot binding became so popular, but regardless of which one is true, the outcome is still the same: women suffer excruciating pain, infections and disabilities.

Basically, young girls’ toes and foot arches were brutally broken, without any pain relief, and then bound in tiny shoes that prevented the feet from growing normally. Women with bound feet were actually considered “intensely erotic”. One of these women was Ms. Liu, a 90-year old woman, from Yunnan province, China. Her feet were bound when she was just 5 years old, and she has been living like this for the past 85 years.

Although foot binding was banned in China, and she doesn’t need to wear her tiny shoes anymore, Ms. Liu finds it makes her feet aesthetically pleasing. She may be 90-years-old, but her feet are the size of a 10-year-old girl.

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Mallakhamb – Extreme Indian Pole Dancing

Modern pole-dancing may be attractive to look-at, but in terms of difficulty, it’s nothing to the old Indian sport of Mallakhamb.

Mallakhamb originated in Maharastra, India, during the 12th century, as a form of training for wrestlers. The word “Malla” means wrestler, while “khamb” translates as pole. This old art had almost been lost throughout the centuries, but it’s become increasingly popular, in recent years, mainly due to the efforts of coaches like Uday Deshpande.

The sport of Mallkhamb has athletes climb up a wooden pole, 55 cm in diameter,at the base, and 35, at the top, and perform various poses and feats. The pole is most often made of teak, because of its sturdiness, and before exercises begin, it’s rubbed with castor oil, to prevent friction.

Even though Mallakhamb is yet to be recognized as an official sport, in India, it has been embraced by visually-impaired boys. This art is about feeling and understanding the strength and balance of one’s body, and that’s why blind Mallakhamb athletes are just as good as those with perfect eyesight.

Mallakhamb

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China’s Lantern-Covered Building

To welcome the Lantern Festival that marks the end of the Chinese Lunar Year festivities, authorities have covered an entire building in brightly colored paper lanterns. Around 2,000 traditional lanterns were used to cover the facade.

The Lantern Festival is one of China’s most important celebrations, and this year it will be celebrated on February 28.

via ImagineChina

lantern-building

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Traditional Goose Fighting in Suzdal

Every year, the people of Suzdal, a small Russian town north-east of Moscow, gather at the the Museum of Wooden Architecture, for the traditional goose fight.

Locals form a circle that acts as the circle of the fighting ring, and the geese are simply unleashed. Apparently, the colder the winter, the more aggressive the birds. This year the temperatures were way below zero,  so the geese started fighting almost instantly.

Two families are released into the ring, but only two geese take part in the actual confrontation, withe the rest of the parties doing all the cheering. But this isn’t as violent as it my look. Unlike cock fights or ouzel fights, goose fighting is a lot more gentle, resulting in only a few plucked feathers.

via toprn

goose-fight

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