China -- birthplace of golf?
Scotland has always been considered as the traditional home of golf since the 15th century but now, according to The Scotsman, a Chinese academic has claimed that golf was played among the noble classes in China some 500 years earlier.
Professor Ling Hongling of Lanzhou University says he has uncovered evidence in a book called the Dongxuan Records that proves golf was played in China in AD 945.
The book, written during the Song Dynasty from AD 960 to AD 1279, claims the game was called chuiwan and was played with 10 different jewel-encrusted clubs, including a cuanbang -- equivalent to a modern-day driver -- and a shaobang -- the ancient three-wood.
The term chui actually means "to hit" while wan is the term for a ball.
It is not the first time another nation has laid claim to Scotland's proud sporting heritage -- in 2003, two French historians uncovered a picture from a 15th-century book showing men outside a Loire Valley chateau playing a ball and stick game known as "pallemail."
But professor Ling's discovery pre-dates even that and he claims the game was imported to Europe by Mongol traders during the late Middle Ages.
Scotland's acceptance as the home of golf rests on a resolution dated March 6, 1457, when King James II of Scotland banned soccer and "ye golf."
The sport's traditional home, St Andrews, is first mentioned as a golf venue in Archbishop Hamilton's Charter of 1552 in which the people of Fife are reserved the right to use the links land -- the land where golf is played at St Andrews -- "for golff, futball, shuteing and all gamis" - golf, football (soccer), shooting and all games for those who do not speak Ye Olde Englysh.
Scots have long acknowledged that other stick and ball games existed but their assertion is that they were the first to use holes rather than targets.
But professor Ling's findings would even seem to dispute that as he claims a reference in the Dongxuan Records sees a prominent Chinese magistrate of the Nantang Dynasty (AD 937-975) instructing his daughter "to dig holes in the ground so that he might drive a ball into them with a purposely crafted stick."
Professor Ling said: "When golf was introduced into China, most people naturally assumed that golf was a foreign game.
"In fact, this is contrary to the historical facts. Golf, as we know it today, clearly originated in China."
The Chinese have a history of making audacious claims to having invented sports.
The official 2008 Beijing Olympics website claims that judo was invented in China, when in fact it was the brainchild of Jigoro Kano, a Japanese student of jujutsu, in the late 19th-century.
The Chinese claim seems to stem from unsubstantiated tales that jujutsu was invented by two Japanese students who were taught by a Chinese martial arts master.
Professor Ling's revelations are unlikely to cause too much consternation in Scotland, though, as the St Andrews Links Trust dismissed his theory.
A spokesperson said: "It has long been clear that there were many different variations of this rudimentary pastime but the game of golf as we know it today was first played here at St Andrews.
"The links are known around the world as the home of golf and attract many visiting golfers each year whose dream is to play here."
It remains to be seen whether there will now be a rush of tourist golfers converging on Beijing for a spot of cultural history in the golfing sense.
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