Forget horseracing or card games: During the Tang Dynasty, betting on crickets was the way to gamble. Over a thousand years later, the tradition continues in modern China, although the gambling aspect has been banned by the government. (Not that this is really stopping the practice.)
Photographer Jonathan Browning ventured to the Superbowl of sanctioned cricket-fighting competitions, as well as the bustling markets where customers gather to purchase their chirping would-be champions. And these insects are no ordinary crickets. Only one breed is used for fighting, and their provenance is important to buyers in the know. "Crickets from Shandong Province are renowned for their prowess and bravery," says Browning. "Maybe there's not much difference between crickets to the average Westerner, but in China, they are also kept as pets."
Above, a participant holds a losing cricket outside the Xilai Ranch at the "Yu Sheng Cup" cricket-fighting tournament in Luhua on Chongming Island. Held during China's week-long national holiday and organized by the Chongming Tourist Department and local government, a total of 16 groups participated. While betting on the games is illegal, the winning team was awarded a certificate and 10,000RMB ($1,500 USD).Jonathan Browning for FP