The History of Sport Played in China's Treaty Ports

Finally, a brief notice in the North China Herald on 14 March 1925 refers to Tientsin defeating Peking in an interport rugby match by 12 points to nil. I think it fair to conclude that rugby matches were rarely played in Peking.


The opportunity for team sport in Peking was greatly reduced in 1927 when the new Chiang Kai Shek's Kuomintang Government moved the capital of China from Peking to Nanking. Much to the regret their regret, diplomats, their staff and entourages had to move south to the new capital.


My hunch is that there were no more rugby games in the city until December 1990 when Professor Cao Xihuang formed a rugby team at the China Agricultural University. Two years later, the Beijing Devils Rugby Club started playing touch rugby in 1992 before moving into contact rugby a year or so later.


I will be doing further research into Peking sport as soon as I can access old copies of the Peking & Tientsin Times



The next reference I have discovered to football in Peking is in November 1920 when the China Press referred to an interport rugby match being arranged between Peking and Tientsin. I have found no evidence that the match was played.


At a Shanghai Rugby Football Club meeting in January 1921 in reveiwing the options of rugby games, the report noted that 'there is also every probability of Peking sending a team' [to Shanghai].


At a rugby match played in Shanghai in 1938 between Shanghai and the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Lieutenant Colonel D M Barchard stated that his regiment had first started to play rugby in 1921 and that he 'recalled that his regiment had played against the United States Marine Corps in Peking fifteen years ago' (ie 1923).

References to rugby football and association football being played in Peking


Commenting on the exciting news in December 1898 that there were more than sixty adult males in residence at the British Legation in Peking, including twenty-one students packed ‘a la mode sardine’. Accordingly the Capital was anxious to challenge Tientsin in a game of Association Football. The correspondent from Peking went on to add that ‘doubtless our youth will rise to the occasion, but “socker” has never taken a very firm root among us; it is possible that the Peking lads, straight out from home, will give us a good shake up. Six or eight years ago we [Peking] used to make a brave show at Rugby, but stomach and anni fugaces have reduced our prowess to vanishing point.’ This is therefore evidence that rugby was being played in Peking in the early 1890s.


I have not discovered whether that game was played but in February 1900 Peking played Tientsin at Football earning a victory by two goals to nil (presumably therefore a soccer game). 



Peking was never a Treaty Port but it did have a foreign prescence forced upon it as a result of the tsecond Opium War and subsequent treaties. During the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces captured the city, infamously looting and burning the Old Summer Palace in 1860. Under the Convention of Peking ending that War, Western powers for the first time secured the right to establish permanent diplomatic presences within the city. 


Most foreigners living in Peking concentrated themselves in the Foreign Legation located, immediately to the east of Tiananmen Square. They were mostly diplomatic staff or, after the Boxer rebellion in 1900, foreign soldiers guarding the legations. The foreign population of Peking never reached the heights of the major Treaty Ports and so the opportunity to form sports teams was limited. I have however discovered a few tantalising references to sports teams playing games.

China Press, November 1920

Peking