26-year-old aims to save China's crossbow culture

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China's crossbow culture
An ethnic Lisu man reacts after winning a crossbow shooting competition in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Lisu men look at an airplane during a crossbow shooting competition in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Lisu man rests after participating in a crossbow shooting competition in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A target board is seen during a crossbow shooting training session at Lushui Crossbow Stadium of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Lisu men attend a crossbow shooting competition in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Zhang, a 26-year old ethnic Lisu man carries his crossbow at his village of Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An arrow flies towards the target board during a crossbow shooting competition in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Zhang, a 26-year old ethnic Lisu man carries his daughter as he poses for a photograph with a crossbow at his house in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Lisu people prepare lunch during a festival in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A man walks along the road in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Lisu woman carries her grandson in her village in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A poster with a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping stands by the road in an ethnic Lisu village in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Lisu man carries his crossbow as he poses for a photograph during a crossbow shooting competition in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 29, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Posters hang on the wall of a room of ethnic Lisu villagers in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ox bones which are used to make the triggers of crossbows are seen at a workshop in Liuku township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A church is reflected in a puddle during Sunday mass in an ethnic Lisu village in Fugong county of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 25, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An ethnic Lisu woman baths her daughter in Fugong township in Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 25, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Lisu men aim their crossbows during a crossbow shooting training session at Lushui Crossbow Stadium of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A newly made crossbow is seen at a workshop in Liuku township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Lisu people stand inside a barber shop in Daxindi township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A mountain road is seen in an ethnic Lisu village in Luzhang township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ethnic Lisu men play a game of billiards in Daxindi township of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan province, China, March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "SONG CROSSBOW" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
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LUSHUI, China (Reuters) - Deep inside mountains along the China-Myanmar border, a 26-year-old ethnic Lisu villager, surnamed Zhang, sharpens his crossbow arrows to prepare for a hunt.

For Zhang and many other Lisu, a mostly Christian minority who inhabit the border region, the crossbow is an indispensable part of their culture dating back to 200 BC.

In a country that often bans the sale of kitchen knives during political summits, it’s still normal to see ethnic Lisu openly carrying the weapon in public.

Despite a decades-old hunting ban, law enforcement remains lax and Zhang and his friends still hunt birds and rodents for sport. Before the ban, Lisu hunters traditionally went for larger game such as bears and wild boar.

Lisu technically must have a crossbow license, which are regulated by district crossbow associations.

As more young people move to urban areas for work, Cha Hairong, head of the Liuku Township Crossbow Association of Lushui city, fears the crossbow is dying out.

Cha wants to preserve the tradition by promoting crossbow shooting as a sport and attract new enthusiasts far beyond the Nu River Valley.

“Our people’s crossbow culture must enter the National Games of China. It must enter the Asian Games. It must enter the Olympic Games! So that people all over world will understand our people’s culture,” said Cha.

The Lushui government has said it is committed to the preservation of the crossbow culture.

Crossbow tournaments offering cash prizes have been held in recent years in a bid to boost interest in the sport.

Some competitors simply enjoy the camaraderie at these events.

“This is just a time where we come here to chat and tell stories,” said Zuo Zhenfu, 27, who attended a crossbow tournament in late March.

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