For at least 1,000 years, crickets have been kept as pets in China for one of two reasons: for their song or, more commonly, for fighting. Cricket fighting was a past-time pursued by people of various classes, including wealthy merchants and the social elite. Affluent cricket-keeping enthusiasts commissioned very high quality cages and implements. The finest cricket-keeping objects demonstrate an ingenious combination of function and aesthetics.
Dr. Ernest Lee has spent several decades assembling a large, diverse, and impressive collection of cricket cages and related implements. One of the hallmarks of Dr. Lee's collectioSAMA exhibition include cricket cages composed of gourd, tortoiseshell, jade, ivory, cloisonné, silver, Peking glass, porcelain, and even coconut. Other cricket-keeping objects in the exhibition include blue-and-white-porcelain food and water trays, agitators used to prepare crickets for fighting, brushes, tongs, cricket-catchers, fighting arenas, scales, carrying tubes, cricket coffins, and even cricket beds. This exhibition gives visitors the rare opportunity to see Chinese works of art that developed around the “elegant hobby” of keeping crickets.