Until the Crickets Sing, it is not Summer

That's an ancient Chinese proverb. Suddenly everyone in Shanghai has gone cricket mad. Warmer weather brings the start of the cricket season, and  in a city where space is at a premium, small and compact crickets make space-saving pets. Don't go thinking crickets are just for kids though - cricket culture is deeply engrained here, and cricket fighting is a popular activity amongst adult men.

Cricket enthusiasts begin to come to the Bird and Insect market (Xizang Lu- across the road from the Dongtai Lu antiques market) in early April, looking for that elusive champion fighter. They spend hours poring over the individually boxed crickets, looking for......well, I'm not sure exactly. What do you look for in a top-notch fighting cricket? Strong legs? Short wings? An aggressive sneer? 

 A likely contender?

Your spending only begins with the cricket itself. After that you'll need a cricket home (woven bamboo, terracotta, carved mahogony inlaid with bone) and some cricket maintenance tools. There are various little feathery things on a stick devoted to cleaning your cricket, other little things for cleaning its house, and still other things for it to lie on and eat. Then there are the cricket teasers, things that you poke the cricket with to goad it into a fight.

Once you've got all your cricket gear, you can get together with other cricket fiends, talk about your crickets and have some cricket fighting tournaments. The best fights are filmed for posterity, so when cricket season ends in October, you can relive the highlights on DVD. 

 Bamboo cricket homes with crickets inside - 10 yuan each.

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