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Crickets in China

Updated on August 18, 2013
Elyn MacInnis profile image

Elyn lived in China with her family for the last 30 years, soaking up the history and culture, having fun, and making many friends.

One of China's oldest Imperial Pets

Did you know that the Chinese have been raising crickets as pets for thousands of years? Have you seen the movie "The Last Emperor"? He pulls out a cricket cage at the end of the movie... remember? Emperors fell in love with crickets, had cricket fighting competitions, wrote poetry about them, and kept them in small cages in their pocket so the crickets would never get cold in the frosty Autumn weather. I have friends who still keep crickets in their pockets. Their favorite? The dear little "Golden Bell,"

Here you will discover pictures, information about crickets, and even cricket poetry on this page. Have fun!

(All photos are original, copyright Elyn MacInnis. Please use them only with attribution.)

Where do you buy crickets and katydids? - At the cricket market of course!

cricket market
cricket market

Cricket markets in most bigger cities and towns carry a wide variety of crickets and have shops as well as cricket and katydid sellers with their crickets in various containers on tarps on the ground.

Usually there are other animals for sale there too - the man in the photo with the round, blue cloth covered cage has a bird inside. Older men love to raise birds and take them for walks in the morning, and this man has decided to walk his bird through the market. But the market has dozens of people who come from the countryside to sell their crickets and katydids in the fall. They squat down with their tarps and small stools and wait for people to come buy their crickets. The sellers in the photo are selling the larger katydids. Watch out if you catch one - they bite!

katydids in China
katydids in China

Inside the small jars you will find the spirited Beijing fighting cricket. I have an elderly friend who told me that he used to take his cricket to school. In those days, the girls often brought silk worms to school, and the boys would bring their crickets. But no pets in the classrooms! They were all lined up in their small jars and left by the door until recess.

Cricket cages

Frabill Tube Cricket Cage
Frabill Tube Cricket Cage

Tube style cages have been in use for more than 1000 years. In China they are made of bamboo, wood, ivory, and often have removable glass lids.

The finest singer of all - the Golden Bell
The finest singer of all - the Golden Bell

Crickets are the sign of autumn, a melancholy time in China

A poem about a naughty cricket who kept the family from sleeping!

Listen to the Crickets

by Bai Ju-yi, a poet who lived 772-846,

and is one of the most famous poets in China.


Crickets sing "creak creak" all night.

Autumn's dark clouds almost rain this day.

Afraid that sad people will sleep a while,

The "creak creak" moves to the front of the bed.


Every culture is different. I never thought sad thoughts in autumn. I love the return of cooler weather, and the crickets are a reminder that the intense heat of the summer is over.

Most people consider the Jin Lingzi, the Golden Bell cricket to have the finest voice. This picture is of the Golden Bell I kept last fall, who sang for quite a while even after the weather turned cold. You can see how small he is by comparing him to the toothpick. My friend keeps a Golden Bell in his pocket all fall.

Crickets and cricket tools
Crickets and cricket tools

If you raise crickets, you might like some cricket tools or a special house

Accessories for keeping crickets

Since Chinese people have been raising crickets for more than a thousand years, they have developed what they call "Cricket Culture." Some people love cricket fighting, but originally crickets were raised because they were - well - just simply charming. Artists have painted many paintings, created cricket calligraphy, written poetry, and spent time making beautiful cricket cages and various tools to make life easier.

Most singing crickets in the market are found in a cardboard container with a glass lid and a small plastic stopper/feeder plug to put food into. These crickets are usually shifted to a plastic or bamboo rectangular shaped container with a sliding plexiglass top (so you can see the cricket) and a sliding bottom that can be removed for cleaning. The smaller sides will have a breathing/sound hole and the other side will have a plug that can be removed and have food inserted in it. There are metal cases to keep crickets in during the winter, especially for people who like to keep them in their pockets in the colder weather.

For a number of years the Golden Bells I bought in Nanjing came in discarded bottles used for injections with a wire net top that was easy to remove. This isn't as nice as a fancy wooden cricket box, but it was really practical.

On top of the cricket cages in the pink tray is what amounts to a cricket elevator, or cricket mover, and what I call an encourager. If a cricket gets loose, you can put the "elevator" in from of him with the open end showing. Crickets love dark holes, so most crickets will walk right into the little cylinder. But if the cricket needs encouragement, you can use the fluffy cotton ball on the wooden stick to give him some encouragement to get into the elevator. Then you can lift him up and carry him to his cage in safety.

There are cricket dishes for food and water in the back of the photo, and eyedroppers for adding water to their pots on the back left. At the front of the photo next to the pink tub, which is full of crickets, mostly the singing ones, you can see tall cricket catching nets.

Cricket cages - Crickets like the dark

Cricket cage picture
Cricket cage picture

Crickets hide out in dark places, and don't mind the dark. Their cages come in all sizes and kinds, and are usually made of clay with a floor that has pounded sand with some Chinese medicine added so it doesn't mold. In the Beijing area, where this photo was taken, you can find all sorts of houses, including ones that count as "villas" and have miniature running water fountains. Pretty fancy!

Cricket cages that are smaller

cricket cage pictures
cricket cage pictures

Fighting crickets or singing crickets? Which do you like? There are special cages for each kind, and the ones for singing crickets have more open spaces and sounding boards built in, so the cricket's song will be magnified. Some have a magnifying glass on the top so you can see the little songster singing more clearly. No matter what cricket you have, there is a cage for them. The front one on the left is a "four room apartment," the one on the right is a magnifying cage for a singing cricket, and the back one is given as a gift. Think the shape is strange? It's the shape of a coffin, and is a pun on the words for "get rich," something every cricket seller would like to do.

katydid on top of cages
katydid on top of cages

Crickets and Katydids are very different

Watch out - katydids are not crickets and they pinch hard!

You will hear quite a racket in the market. Not only are there crickets, but there are katydids too, and they make so much noise it can be deafening. Some people really love the sound of the katydids, but I have always found it too noisy. And I don't like the fact that katydids pinch you really hard, and my friend tells me they can even pinch you so hard you bleed. But katydids have cool houses made of gourds, and some are even decorated with pictures that are added by burning the picture into the gourd with a hot piece of metal. I would rather collect the gourds as art than have to cope with a katydid!

One last word about katydids

Katydid gourds are really cool

One of the most practical and popular of materials to make containers for katydids is the gourd. In popular stories and legends Chinese fairies and immortals kept their “Elixir of Immortality” in gourds. The gourd is strong and keeps the right amount of moisture. Some farmers put immature gourds into a mold, and the gourds grow up to fit the mold, which has different symbols, animals, famous historical figures or beautiful ladies impressed on the mold. Artists also use a burning technique with a metal needle to burn drawings onto the gourd. The gourd in this picture was made by growing the gourd inside a mold, so that the picture was imprinted on the gourd as it grew.

cricket cages
cricket cages

What do you feed a singing cricket?

Cricket care and cages

Crickets eat almost anything. They like apple, all members of the squash family, cucumbers, sweet potato, and also eat chicken feed, and specially prepared cricket feed that you can buy in the markets here, which has exotic ingredients like snake meat, shrimp powder and ground bones. They also eat old cloth, leather, and paper, but it wouldn't be good to feed them that. My Golden Bells love apple best of all. It has lots of water content, and you don't have to add water to their cages if you give them apple.

The picture is of some different sorts of cricket cages. The one on the front right is called a "four room apartment." The front right cage is a magnifying cage to keep tiny crickets in like the Golden Bell. The funny looking wooden box in the back is a replica of a Chinese coffin. Yes, you read that right. A coffin. Why? It is a pun on getting rich, and everyone would like to be rich - so even though most people don't want to speak about death, they are happy to have the gift of a cricket in a small coffin which is a blessing and wish that they will be wealthy. The cages in the back with bars are for katydids.

Cricket Song slowed down - God's Cricket Chorus

This may seem a little strange, but if you slow down the sound of crickets chirping, it sounds a bit like medieval chanting. The sound is very soothing and eerily beautiful. Here is the link:

How do crickets sing?

Do crickets sing with their mouths?

No - crickets don't sing with their mouths. They sing by rubbing their wings together, that makes a sound similar to the sound humans can make when they run their fingernail along a comb.

Cricket wings have one edge with teeth like a "comb" and one with a "bow". The hard edge rubbing against the teeth of the other wing makes the chirping sound. Crickets are "right winged" and katydids are "left winged." The common field cricket has 142 teeth, and in its normal call uses 67 of the teeth to make its sound, which it produces as a triple note at 4,900 hz, which is higher than the highest octave on the piano. When it is courting a female, it uses 92 of the teeth as a continuous chirp at the same frequency. They can sing as high as 20,000 cycles per second, which is a sound we humans cannot hear.

Did you like this cricket site? Do me a favor and push the "like" button. It makes a difference! Thanks!

Cool cricket resources - Get these at

Good cricket links!

You will find lots of good information at these links.

Cricket lovers unite! - Do you have any experience with crickets? Would you like to try raising one?

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    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      The variety of articles on Squidoo is amazing. Thank you for publishing this lens. I'm fascinated by your article. Wish you the best.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @aesta1: The singing ones are so lovely. And so easy to keep as pets. They eat anything almost - well - they eat veggies. And they sing so beautifully.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @anonymous: Oh thank you! Yes - I have always wanted to shrink down and become cricket sized so I could see what it feels like to be a cricket in a villa. Glad you like the small wonders!

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 5 years ago from Redcar

      I love crickets - loved the lense also.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'd prefer the singing ones. Enjoyed reading this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Crickets are loved somewhere in the world, that is so sweet! I would like one of those villas with a miniature water fountain that is love....FB loved and G+. You sure are introducing us to the small wonders of China is in such a nice way !:)

    • jc stone profile image

      Jordan 5 years ago

      Nice lens! I did not know that crickets were so popular.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @MelanieKaren: How wonderful. My daughter's sweet little dog is named Cricket - if you go to the lens called miki-dog on squidoo you can see what she looks like. I can't cope with the noise of the huge Chinese katydids - one will fill a house and then some. And they bite... I admire you for raising them. That must have been a little difficult. Nice to meet you!

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Cricket and Katydids are among my favorites, and I've raised both. My son's name is Cricket as well :)

    • SandraWilson LM profile image

      SandraWilson LM 5 years ago

      Now I want a cricket.

    • spids1 profile image

      spids1 5 years ago

      Real cool lens!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      How interesting! I knew the Chinese carry their birds around, but didn't know about the crickets.

    • profile image

      Stuwaha 5 years ago

      I miss crickets so much after moving to Scotland in 2005 from Rhode Island. Evenings are not complete without them. Thank you for sharing :)

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @Stuwaha: I bet you do miss crickets - I didn't realize that they don't have crickets in Scotland. Maybe you could get one of the recordings and sooth some of your nostalgia?

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      I like your lens, but it's beyond me how people can treat them as pets. Thanks for showing us how.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 5 years ago

      Interesting ! Thanks for sharing.

    • Kumar P S profile image

      Kumar P S 5 years ago

      Interesting ! Thanks for sharing.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @LisaDH: And they are not long lived - maybe 3 months? So you don't have the job of looking after a 18 year old cricket. They do become friends anyway, even if their time is short. They know when you are coming with food and get excited. And some definitely have character. The Beijing fighter crickets have so much spunk.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      I knew crickets were considered good luck in China, so I always like seeing them around my house, but I had no idea that they were such a popular pet in China. They don't seem nearly as cuddly as a cat or dog, but I bet they're a lot cheaper to keep and feed. :-)

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I feed them to my pet gecko, but didn't realize they are so big in China.

      Very cool how they grow gourds in a mold.

    • sunny saib profile image

      sunny saib 5 years ago

      Strange topic but totally likeable. Some creatures have troubles finding love instantly.. ;) :)

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @anonymous: Lots of people in the US think of crickets that way. In China they are fighters first, and then songsters. I love them for their song - but only the ones with good voices like the Golden Bell - the loud field crickets are nicer to listen to in a field.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I use crickets for fishing. They make great bait for Blue-gills and Brim. Never entered my mind to think of them as 'pets'. Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @Craftypicks: I am surprised your cats didn't find them and eat them or play with them. I guess some end up as food, and that is life. My favorite cricket has a very delicate sound, and I can keep him in my pocket. In the end, I liberate all of them. They are always happy about that too!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      I've always found the idea of keeping crickets as pets intriguing. Thanks for sharing - blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Craftypicks profile image

      Lori Green 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      I used to feed crickets to my reptiles. When one would escape it would drive my cats nuts. I like it that you can tell them to shut up and they do. My kids don't do that.

    • profile image

      myamya 5 years ago

      Great lens, nicely done! Thumbs up

    • CNelson01 profile image

      Chuck Nelson 6 years ago from California

      I remember the cricket scenes in "The Last Emperor." I've not had a cricket pet but have had to hunt down the occasional critter that finds its way into our house.

    • rachelscott profile image

      rachelscott 6 years ago

      I love to play cricket but if play in different region it will be more interesting.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @Cari Kay 11: Insects can come in droves sometimes - like locusts. I hadn't heard that crickets could do that, but maybe it is possible. Are you sure they weren't locusts? Anyway, too many of anything is too much. We have them one by one in China, and they are charming. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 6 years ago

      Katydids drove us batty when we were children. I cannot imagine keeping one of THEM as a pet. Thinking back about 20 years or so. We had several days where our area was taken over by crickets. I remember going into the garage at work and you couldn't see the floor, there were so many! Never been crazy about them since! Not sure why that occurred but it was pretty creepy! I never knew they were pets and this is fascinating!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @julieannbrady: Crickets don't bite, but their big brothers and sisters, the katydids, bite. They also sing LOUDLY. In China the katydid sellers have them in tiny woven containers and carry a ton of them on shoulder poles, and the sound is so loud I can hardly bear it. I prefer the sweet tinkling sound of the Golden Bell cricket. Their mouths are tiny - so biting isn't a problem.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 6 years ago

      Oh my ... to listen to the sounds of crickets is quite mesmerizing ... a splendid presentation on this subject. Oh ... so they pinch too? Like praying mantis perhaps?

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 6 years ago

      I have heard of the practice of keeping crickets as pets among Asian immigrants to the US, and it is very interesting to read about the origins of this tradition!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 6 years ago from Virginia

      I only know the country cricket and can identify with the ancient poet who lamented the "creak creak" sound of a cricket. Neverthe less, most of the time, even an occasional one in the house is tolerated for the most part. Great and informative lens! Thanks for sharing, creak, creak!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 6 years ago from New York

      Fascinating lens about the crickets in China. I knew crickets are considered to be good luck and that they were kept as pets, but I never knew to the extent of it. Your relating of your first hand experience is so interesting! I have always wanted to go to China, and hope of someday to visit there. Your lens let me armchair travel with a better understanding since it is coming from a New Englander. LOL. *Squid Angel Blessed* and added to My Squid Angel Blessings 2012 in the "Pets & Animals » Insects" neighborhood.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 6 years ago

      Enjoyed this lens very much. Never knew about having a cricket as a pet.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 6 years ago from Maryland

      This lens makes me think of the Disney movie, of our favorites! :)

    • profile image

      squeedunk 6 years ago

      Awesome info. Your lenses are a real treat if you don't mind me saying Elyn. And I mean that aside from the great cookies and baked goods lenses you have. Lenses like this one really open a window for a lot of us to see a part of something that we may otherwise never come in contact with. Cricket raising! It's great. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

    • profile image

      Xixilater 6 years ago

      Awesome lens...very informative!

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 6 years ago

      A comprehensive lens!

    • RaisedVegetableG profile image

      RaisedVegetableG 6 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: Oh how nice to let them go. Perhaps their children will return to you.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 6 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @RaisedVegetableG: Crickets don't live too long. I have had ones from the cricket market last 3-4 months. If they are old when you buy them, they can last a month. I get a small "orchestra" in the fall for a few weeks, and then let them go. I have the pleasure of the orchestra for a few weeks, and then have the pleasure of letting them go to find their girlfriends, which is all they want. People here aren't usually sentimental about their crickets. I am. I always take a cricket outside and return them to the great earth where they came from.

    • RaisedVegetableG profile image

      RaisedVegetableG 6 years ago

      This is a delightful lens, and extremely well described glimpse of Chinese culture. How long do crickets live? What do people do with their pet crickets when they die? Is that something that isn't talked about?

    • Dee Gallemore profile image

      Dee Gallemore 6 years ago

      What a fun and informative read about cricket culture in China . . . great work!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      This reminds me of the Chester Cricket books my kids and I used to read a long time ago. Fascinating and fun lens!


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