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March 24, 2008

Tombs of the fighting crickets

Without a doubt one of the oddest displays in the Macau museum was that of the fighting crickets. Now, who knew that cricket fighting used to be a big sport in this area? Apparently huge sums of money changed hands based on the outcomes of these mighty bouts between the insects. There were some video clips of the battles in action - basically two crickets stuck in a bucket whilst men jabbed at them to rile them up so that they would fight. Fortunately, it seems the crickets were too stupid to realise that they could team up and form an army of super-fighting crickets.


What was really strange about the display though, was that it featured some of the champion crickets from the 1960s. Perfectly pickled. You can't imagine David Beckham in formaldehyde in a museum in the future, but here were the sporting heroes of 1960s Macau. Some were just out in the open, whilst others were confined to elaborate tombs that had been constructed for them by their distraught owners. All rather odd.

Still, I shouldn't be making judgments about the relative merits of Chinese and European culture - the museum itself was adamant that it wasn't going to do it. Virtually the first thing that greeted you was a big sign explaining the philosophy of the museum.

"When two civilizations encounter each other for the first time, they are likely to differ in respective degrees of their diversity, complexity and potency. It is not our purpose to review the diversity, complexity and potency of Chinese and European civilizations during the beginning of the sixteenth century."

You then entered the museum through a corridor where the comparative achievements of European and Chinese civilisation were displayed opposite each other in glass cases. It was all carefully arranged to diplomatically keep the two in step with each other!

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