Ancient art of fish fighting in Hanoi (Part 1)

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Ancient art of fish fighting in Hanoi (Part 1)
Ancient art of fish fighting in Hanoi (Part 1)

On my first visit to a fish fight, my friend took me to a xới (arena) adjacent to Ba Mau Lake. Under the blazing sun, more than twenty men gathered around three glass bowls containing a collection of colourful fish. As we arrived, two of the men prepared to drop their fighting fish into the ‘ring’ – a glass pot containing clear water.

Ancient art of fish fighting
Ancient art of fish fighting

As the two aggressive fighters (one deep black in colour, the other a bright pink) are dropped into the water, they immediately attack each other. The fish seem to fight harder as the crowd urges them on.

Long ago, fish fighting developed as a special hobby for Vietnamese children, especially in Hanoi. Now, this children’s game has become a popular hobby for adults as well. Fish fighting arenas are developing on pavements, lakes sides, or in more secluded areas such as gardens.

Ancient art of fish fighting
Ancient art of fish fighting

According to an ornamental fish seller in Mo Market, Hanoi, the best fighting fish can be found in Yen Phu and Nghi Tam villages in the Tay Ho District of Hanoi. Nguyen Van Huan, a fighting fish raiser from Nghi Tam village said, “To have a good fighting fish, you have to choose it carefully. A good fighting fish must have characteristics such as a big head, long and thick body, thick tail, hump back, and vertical fin.”

Quality fish such as these can be priced between VND50, 000-70,000 each, but even though the fish may display the characteristics of a fighter, it can still take two to three months before they are ready to be brought to the fighting arena.hanoi tours