Why Is Table Tennis So Popular in China

When it comes to the Olympics, there is always that one country that dominates over the rest. For the US for example, their sport is swimming. The champions and masters of archery are South Korea and Russia is better known for weightlifting. As for Table Tennis, the country that is best at is China.

In China, the game is not only played for leisure but taken very seriously. From childhood when talent is spotted or you show any interest in the game, you are taken to a special school. Here you learn the correct techniques and rules of the game. You also receive a senior national player as an individual practicing partner. That is why the Chinese are ahead of other countries.

To better understand the game, this post is an overview of what important facts about table tennis. We will look at its origin, the reason behind its popularity, and the most famous players in the game until now.

Who Invented Table Tennis?

Despite being a popular and important sport in China, they weren’t the inventors of the game. In fact, in the 80s and 90s Europe especially Sweden, used to champion the game. Table tennis originated in the 1880s in Victorian England. An English man by the name of David Foster is credited as being the inventor of the game, having been the one to file the first patent in 1890.

Fosters patent entailed parlor games which were table versions of sports like lawn tennis, football, and cricket. At the time table tennis was enjoyed by the upper class as a leisure activity after dinner, especially during winter when they couldn’t be outside.

Later in January 1891, Emma Barker filed another patent for an American version of the game and called it indoor tennis. That same year in July J. Jacques trademarked a newer version of the game where he used vellum-covered rackets, a 30cm high net across the table, and a netted 50mm cork ball. He renamed the trademark Ping Pong which he later transferred ownership to the Parker brothers.

The game wasn’t introduced to China until 1901 through western settlements via Korea and Japan. Over the years in the 20th century, there have been many developments to the game in terms of the equipment that have increased the spin and speed of the game. Those credited for these developments are James W. Gibb who discovered the celluloid ball and E.C. Goode who invented the modern racket used today.

Aside from the development of the equipment, the popularity of the game was increasingly growing such that books were written on it, governing bodies begun being established and tournaments were being organized. In 1902 an unofficial world championship was held. In 1926, after the formation of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), the first official world championship was held in London. By 1988, table tennis was finally introduced as an Olympic sport in the Olympics. Since 1959, however, China has been championing the game up until now.

Given its streak of winning at the game both in the Olympics and World Championships, it goes without saying, that table tennis is most popular in China. It is said that there are over 10 million people who play the sport almost every day.

Table tennis is considered the national sport in China and has been ingrained in its culture. As such the government, go out of their way to heavily fund the sport. The sport is also part of the Chinese school curriculum and there are also holiday training camps for kids after school. That way a kid can become a world-class player by the age of 12.

So, it’s no wonder China has been winning in World Championships since 1959. Since that year, in the men’s World Championships, China has managed to win 60% of the time. Since 1971, in the women’s World Championships, China has won each time except on two occasions.

Even with the Olympics, China has been dominating the game since 2008 in Beijing, where they won all the six medals given for singles table tennis games. As a result, the Olympic committee limited each country to two players. Even so in the 2012 London Olympics, they still managed to win two gold medals and two silver medals with just two male and two female players. Again, in the 2016 Rio Olympics, both their male and female players won gold medals.

What Is the Reason Behind the Popularity of Table Tennis?

The popularity of table tennis in China isn’t something that happened overnight, and it isn’t simply because they have become the undisputed champions in the game globally. There are certain cultural reasons why the game is loved by many in the country.

The first reason is that it has been one of the major games that have been played in China for a long time. As such, the Chinese, especially the older generation, treat the game with a form of reverence. The second reason is the convenience of the game. Given how populous China is, space is increasingly becoming a real issue. It is therefore advantageous that table tennis doesn’t take up too much space. All you need is enough space to fit a table and move around while playing. Aside from that, the equipment used in the game is not expensive, therefore anyone from any walk of life can afford to take part in the game.

You should also note that in China, tables have been placed everywhere in public spaces, from train stations to parks, to schools and even business centers. It’s is therefore easy for people to play and fall in love with the game given the easy access. With the younger generation, however, there is fear that the popularity of the game is slowly beginning to decline. This is because, the majority of youngsters are more distracted with social media and the internet, and the fact that there are a lot of digitized games to play nowadays.

Who Are the Famous Table Tennis Players?

There may be people who may not consider table tennis as a serious sport but is no less a sport than others like football. Famous players in this game earn good fortune from it. The following are a few of the most famous table tennis players of all time:

Liu Goliang – a legendary player and now coach, with a career slam of three majors.

Ma Long – a great player with the longest record of being number one for 64 months in ITTF.

Wang Liqin – started playing at the age of six, and holds the second-longest record of being number one for 25 months in ITTF.

Xu Xin – an impressive player who has won the World Tour 10 times and beat Ma Long three times.

Fan Zhedong – youngest champion player in the game, who started his career as a teenager and is now the top player in the world according to ITTF.

Other notable players outside of China include Ichiro Ogimura who is considered the pride of Japan in Table Tennis. Jan-Ove Waldner is a great Swede player on the same level as top Chinese players and is known for his remarkable hand-eye coordination. Last but not least, Zoran Primorac is a Croatian player and considered the best in Europe for the past three decades.

Who Is the King of Table Tennis?

Although Ma Long and Fan Zhedong are the most recent Champions of Table Tennis, Deng Yaping, is considered the King of Table Tennis according to Chinese sports legends. Between 1989 and 1997, he has managed to win four Olympics and 18 world championships.


Given the seriousness and national love China has for table tennis, it may continue to be the leading country in the game for years to come. The simplicity and convenience of the game are what make table tennis so lovable. Even if you’re not interested in playing it at a professional level, the game is still a great leisure activity to productively pass time.

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