The Lü people are a Tai ethnic group of Vietnam, China,
Laos and Thailand. Their population is 600 thousand. Lü is listed as one of 54 official ethnic groups in Vietnam whereas in China they are officially recognized as part of the Dai (Thai) ethnic group. Their religion is Buddhism.
Cổng Thong is a traditional sport practiced by the Lü people. The sport directly pits two contestants against each other in a test of strength. The contestants hold the opposite sides of a long stick. In order to win a contest, you must push the opponent out of the circle. In fact, the sport can be called “stick-pushing” rather than more common and known “stick-pulling” because in this game, pulling is not allowed. In this respect, it is a quite unique sport which recently spread beyond inhabitance of the Lü people. Both men and women participate in this unusual sport with equal enthusiasm; men compete with men, women compete with women.
In another form of Cổng Thong, contestants holding a stick with one hand, begin a contest standing outside of a one-meter-wide “forbidden strip” outlined on the ground. The goal is to cross the “forbidden strip” separated the contestants by pushing the opponent back by use of the stick.
Traditionally, competitions are held during calendar holidays and festivals, for instance New Year. The most popular time for competitions for Vietnamese Lü is the holiday of “kammyong” - in honor of Gods and spirits of rivers, mountains and forests. It is the time to sacrifice an offering to the Gods and prayed for well-being, happiness, luck and for deliverance from misfortune and troubles.
Besides, Cổng Thong, the Lü people also practice other forms of test of strength, for instance, a popular game of “Lac Cо Cо” which reminds “rooster fight”. Two contestants standing on one foot hold their feet by a hand trying to force the opponent to stand on both feet or push him/her out of the defined territory. Pushing by the chest, shoulder or knee is allowed. Besides, leg wrestling Vat Chdri is popular among Lü men and women: two contestants hold each other by both hands whereas they may use only interlocking legs for competing.
In another form of Cổng Thong, contestants holding a stick with one hand,
begin a contest standing outside of a one-meter-wide "forbidden strip" outlined on the ground.
The goal is to cross the "forbidden strip" by pushing the opponent back.
Inhabitance area of the Lü people in China. Map from the Joshua Project