The Waso Chinlone (Cane Ball) Festival has entered its 91st year in Mandalay this month, starting from 7 to 17 July. More than 1000 teams have participated and competed in the grounds next to the Mahamuni Pagoda every day. The tournament starts at 9am and lasts for 30 minutes each, with 30 teams performing per day.
Cane ball players from all over the country have come to Mandalay to enjoy the game. Some national players representing Myanmar has also joined and performed their skills. Different from the last few years, there are not many foreign players from Thailand, Japan, the US and other countries coming to participate this year.
“That’s why we only organize two weeks this year. This is probably because the Myanmar Traditional Chinlone Federation Chairman’s Cup was held on 9th July and some foreign teams went to that competition,” U Thein, one of the organizers said.
Many Mandalay residents went to the stadium to watch the performances, seeing a plethora of ways of playing cane ball. In the last week, the event will display the skill of the best teams.
The Chinlone Festival is a unique and large-scale Myanmar sports event holding every year in Mandalay. The festival has been celebrated in the format of chin wine, in which a team of six players stayed in a circle with one standing in the middle. They have to pass the cane ball with their legs, knees or head while moving around the circle, working together to prevent the ball from falling down.
“The festival demonstrates the talents of the players, emphasizing the skill of each player. It can also be a cultural entertainment for the public and tourists. It is a custom and tradition which should be preserved and passed on from generations to generations,” Thein explained.
Chinlone is produced by a woven cane. It was only played by royal families back then. Instead of merely sports, it is a combination of sports, martial arts and dance. The victory is decided on the dexterity and how beautiful their movements are when passing the balls.
Not only does Chinlone represent a 1500-years-old sports game, but is also pertinent to the traditions, culture and history of Myanmar. Many youngsters play cane ball during their leisure time. In Buddhist festivals, chinlone is always played as a performance.
The festival is organized during the month of the full moon day of Waso, which is usually in July.
“We will pay homage to some chinlone professionals on the full moon day of Waso. The entrance fee paid by teams and will be used to make offerings to the Mahamuni Pagoda. Some of the audience visiting this festival donate to the pagoda as well,” he added.