Chinas Racquet Town – Longmen, Zhejiang Province

Practically every manufactured item you buy in shops these days is “Made in China” or “Fabrique en Chine” but have you ever wondered where all these things are made?

If you’ve ever played the sport of Badminton, then the odds are pretty good that your badminton racquet was made in the small town of Longmen in China’s Zhejiang Province, 3.5 hours south of the bustling metropolis of Shanghai.

Space is limited in China’s crowded cities so it makes sense that a sport involving a simple racquet and a shuttlecock that can be played virtually anywhere should be the participation sport of choice.

Australian ABC TV foreign correspondent Stephen McDonell travelled to Longmen, a traditional river town in China’s South Eastern Zhejiang Province, 50 kilometers southwest of the Zhejiang provincial capital Hangzhou

Longmen is a typical example of the so-called water towns on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, but is rare in having so far eluded overt commercialisation.

While the townspeople are currently developing a few tourism projects, they hope that they will be enable to maintain old traditions and allow them to continue living their relaxed life style. No-one in Longmen wants their town to become a bustling commercial concern.

The town is in a state of stunning decay, Ming and Qing dynasty buildings and archways with faded characters crumble over narrow streets, populated by well kempt cats, scraggly dogs, pig-tailed children, and weathered grandparents, hunched over on stools stringing plastic badminton racquets with neon strings – the local cottage industry.

badminton-racquet-shuttlecock.jpgBadminton Racket
photo credit: mrhayata

One familial clan dominates, the descendants of a man named Sun Quan, who was a king during the Wuyue Kingdom.

Around 90% of the town’s population even today bears his surname, Sun, and a line of descent parallel to that running through Longmen Village was responsible for the production of China’s Republican hero, Sun Zhongshan, better known to English speakers as Sun Yatsen.

One of the town’s own favorite sons was Sun Kun, who isn’t that interesting except for the fact that he built ships for one of the most intriguing characters in Chinese history – and my own personal favorite – Zheng He, the eunuch from Xinjiang who captained a fleet of Ming Dynasty treasure ships throughout Southeast Asia all the way to India.
– source : A village visit

Longmen is famous, not so much for famous players, but for the sheer number of people who participate in the badminton industry.

It’s the ultimate in outsourcing. In many homes nimble fingers are hard at work.

“I can make 50 racquets,” says one worker. “An old woman like me can make 50 racquets – a young person can make 100 racquets a day.”

Another woman told McDonell that she produces 700 racquets a week for which she’s paid the equivalent of $A22.

stringing badminton racquets longmen china
Stringing badminton racquets in Longmen, China
photo credit: ABC Foreign Correspondent

The townspeople are said to string a total of 50 million racquets each year.

Watch the story for yourself (5min 18sec in length) below by clicking on the play button:



If you can’t see the video player than you should open this URL in Windows Media Player: http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2008/china_racquets_200k.asx

ABC TV’s team of Foreign Correspondents take you on a unique journey to places few others venture, for a colourful look at the culture and lifestyle of people who don’t usually make international headlines. Their mixture of serious and light-hearted stories will inform and entertain you.

3 thoughts on “Chinas Racquet Town – Longmen, Zhejiang Province”

  1. I like this post. It amazes me that there is a big group on one side and a big group on the other side then an itty bitty small group in the middle. Here’s what I mean: You have the town of Longmen where ppl are working hard for small wages and want to maintain the life that they know. You have the consumers of today who are fed up with rising prices, outsourcing, etc. then the very small group in the middle who dont care about either of the big sides and are making BIG money doing it. I’m not mad at commercialism until it affects where I live (much like the ppl of Longmen) but still the equation sucks. Oh well it is-what it is. Great site!

  2. Fascinating documentary – I’m a keen badminton player, knew that most of the rackets I use come from China, but had no idea they were strung by hand in the streets of small settlements like this.

    In the western world, rackets are restrung using special equipment to ensure a high, constant tension (9-14kg).

    I assumed this was how rackets were strung in China during the manufacture process as well, in a factory. So this was news to me! Thanks for such an interesting insight.

    Cheers,

    Mike

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