Most Popular Sports in China

You know that Chinese people are hardworking and active. So,  no wonder that they are interested in various types of sports. If you roam around the country, you will see them playing almost all types of sports. From children to adults, everyone takes part.

But not all sports are popular across the country. The top 10 most popular sports in China include a variety of sports. They are popular among everyone in all parts of the country.

Let’s not keep you waiting for long. Some of the sports will surprise you for sure.

Top 10 Most Popular Sports in China

Sports name Playing since
Basketball 1890s
Table Tennis 1920s
Badminton 1930s
Football (Soccer) 1900s
Martial Arts Over 2,000 years ago
Volleyball 1900s
Running At the beginning of the 20th century
Yoga 202 B.C.
Snooker 1980s
Bicycling 1870s

1. Basketball in China

Basketball in China

Basketball is undoubtedly the most popular sport in China. The game is enjoyed by both young children and adults. Why is the game so popular here? Well, we already mentioned that they are very active and hardworking. So it makes sense that basketball is their most favorite sport.

Basketball has a long history in China. The game was introduced to the country in the 1890s. The game became very popular among young people as it requires intense physical performance. With the increased popularity, an association for basketball became a need.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) got established in 1984. It acts as the governing body for basketball in China and organizes different leagues, and intends to promote the game more. Yao Ming, a former basketball player, became a household name in the 1990s.

Yao Ming was a great player, and his popularity crossed the border and reached the United States. Ming got to play in the NBA for the Houston Rockets. Ming became the greatest Chinese basketball player ever and helped elevate the popularity of the sport in China.

Today, China has the largest basketball fan base. And their own league CBA has become highly competitive. Chinese basketball players have also grown a reputation for being good players.

2. Table Tennis

Table Tennis

At number two, we have table tennis. Do you watch the Olympics? If yes, then you surely know some of the Chinese table tennis players. The game was added to the Olympics in 1988. Since then, China has been the most dominant force in the event.

So far, thirty-two gold medals have been distributed in the event. And how many of them did China win? Twenty-eight of them. Shocking, right? But everyone has got used to it. There is a reason behind it. China holds the number one position when it comes to the popularity of the sport.

Let’s start from the beginning. Table tennis, also called ping pong, spread in China in the 1920s. It was not a local sport; rather, the missionaries introduced them to the game. And ironically, when the Chinese people began to play the game, they quickly became skilled in it.

Table tennis became a national obsession in China during the 1950s. Everyone enjoyed playing the game. The need for quick response and reflex made the game challenging, and they loved challenges.

You must have heard the name Chairman Mao Zedong, haven’t you? He also promoted the game throughout China. No wonder it became a national obsession overnight. Zedong envisioned table tennis as a way to showcase the strength of the Chinese people and promote Chinese culture on the global stage.

Standing in 2023, you cannot argue over Zedon’s idea. Under Zedong’s leadership, many training facilities were built throughout the country. Since then, they have become the undisputed champion of the sport.

3. Badminton


Badminton comes at number three among the top 10 most popular sports in China. China has been playing the game since the 1930s. Like basketball and table tennis, badminton is not a local game in China. So how did it appear to the country?

The British military deserves credit for the introduction of badminton in China. They used to play badminton in their free time, and quickly the strange game curated the Chinese. It became a part of Chinese culture towards the end of the 1930s.

After the independence of China, the popularity of China grew very fast. Many training institutions were built for training for the game. China’s badminton program continued to thrive in the 70s and 80s. They have produced some of the best players in badminton’s history.

The Olympics included badminton in the event in 1992. And no nation has been as dominant as China. They have won 41 medals so far, including twenty gold medals. China dominates the game in both men’s and women’s competitions.

The success China has earned in badminton has made the game more popular in China. They are proud of their dominance of the game.

4. Football (Soccer)

Football (Soccer)

You were looking for it, weren’t you? Here it is. The most popular sport in the world is also popular in China. And like the previous sports, soccer or football was not invented in China. They adopted the sport from England.

Football was born in 1863. It was introduced to China in the late 19th century. The first match of football was played in China in 1867. It was played between British sailors and local Chinese workers. But the game did not gain much popularity then.

It was 1924 when the first national China football team was formed. The team found some initial success. However, due to political and social issues, the spread of football became limited in China. A lack of investment was also a major reason.

In recent years, China has been focusing on improving its reputation in football. They are trying to form a stronger national team. They are investing heavily in infrastructure. They are building new stadiums and training facilities. They have also hired high-profile coaches and imported foreign players to improve the level of play.

Despite all the investment and efforts, they are still struggling. You can see why. Other countries have been focusing on the sport for a long time. Compared to them, China has only just started. There is a high chance one day; they will dominate football as much as they dominate table tennis.

5. Martial Arts

Martial Arts

You were expecting this, weren’t you? Well, here it is. Martial art is an important part of Chinese culture. It is a combination of physical and mental techniques. It makes your body strong, flexible, and agile.

Chinese people are obsessed with martial arts. In ancient times, Chinese warriors learned it as a mandatory skill. Since then, it has been their tradition to learn martial arts. The Olympics adopted martial arts in 1964, and since then, it has been a regular event of the tournament.

And how is China doing in this event? You can guess that they are one of the most successful nations in martial arts. So far, they have won twelve medals, including four gold medals.

6. Volleyball


Volleyball is one of the most popular sports in China. It was introduced in China during the early twentieth century. However, the game did not get much popularity till the 1950s. In 1951, the Chinese Volleyball Association was established.

Soon the association established a national volleyball league, and the game started getting attention. The national team of China became very dominant during the 1960s and 70s. It made people more interested in Volleyball.

China has continued its legacy in the sport. During the 80s, they focused on building a strong women’s team as well. Their women’s team has won gold medals in the Olympics too.

Chinese volleyball teams have also performed well in other international competitions. They won the World Cup and World Championships multiple times.

With all the success, their popularity is increasing day by day. And they are holding the sixth position among the top 10 most popular sports in China.

7. Running


Running is another very popular sport in China. It has been a part of their lifestyle since God knows when. However,  it became a sport only in the mid-twentieth century. Running in China is not as easy as it is in Western Countries.

The weather and the dense population make running quite a challenge in China. The government of China always encourages people to take part in sports.

China’s performance in running in the Olympics is very impressive. They have won 11 gold medals so far. However, China’s performance in the running event has declined in recent years compared to its previous records.

8. Yoga


What? Yoga? Why is it on the list? Is that even a sport? Well, it may not be a sport in other countries. But in China, it is a sport. And it is a very popular one too.

Yoga is a form of exercise that is very popular in China. Yoga has been in practice in China since ancient times, but the modern version of yoga started in the 1980s. During this time, the first yoga teacher training program was established in China.

The China Yoga Association was established in 1992, and since then, modern yoga has started gaining popularity. The government of China is also backing yoga. They have declared June 21 as National Yoga Day. Today, there are many yoga training institutions in China, and they are full of learners.

9. Snooker


Nope, there is no typo. Snooker is a type of sport; maybe you haven’t heard of it. It is also a relatively new sport in China, but its popularity is growing rapidly. Okay, let’s tell you what the game is first.

Have you played pool? At least the mobile game “8 ball pool?” Snooker is similar to pool in many ways. Both snooker and pool are cue games played on a board with pockets. But the table size is smaller in snooker. And the pool has 15 balls, while snooker has 21.

Snooker has been played in China only since the 1980s. The first snooker club in China was established in the city of Shenzhen. But like many other sports, the people of China mastered the game very quickly. A decade later, they began to win international tournaments, and the popularity of the game increased.

Ding Junhui is one of the most successful snooker players from China. He won several ranking events, including the U.K. Championship and the World Open. Lately, the government of China is also backing the sport.

10. Bicycling


When you ride your bicycle, that is not a sport. But when you are competing with your buddies, that is a sport. And this support is quite popular among the Chinese people. How did it start in the country? Like some of the other countries, European missionaries get the credit once again.

The cycle became a popular mode of transport in the 1930s. A few decades later, the Chinese government also promoted bicycles as a form of transport. Soon different bicycling competitions were held across the country, and it began to get popular.

The Olympics added a bicycling event in 1984. China won 31 medals in the event, including nine gold medals. The success in the Olympics motivated more people to get into the sport.


You must have noticed that most of the popular sports in China require intense physical and mental ability. It is a sign of their activeness. The top 10 most popular sports in China are a way for them to maintain a healthy life for common people, while some take them as opportunities to make their nation proud.

Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.


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