Newspaper article International New York Times

For Many Chinese, the Song in Their Hearts Is an Insect's

Newspaper article International New York Times

For Many Chinese, the Song in Their Hearts Is an Insect's

Article excerpt

Chirping bugs like katydids, cicadas and crickets are prized as pets and are ingrained in the culture.

Mosquitoes. Flies. Cockroaches. The bugs that thrive in the heat of summer vex Chinese urban dwellers just as they do in most of the world.

But in China, some insects are viewed not as pests, but as pets - - especially if they sing for their supper.

Chirping bugs like katydids, cicadas and crickets are prized throughout the country, collected by children and old men who keep them in clay vessels or bamboo cages and nourish them with grains of rice and razor-thin slices of green onion.

Crickets are even bred for their fighting prowess, and a pedigreed champion can be worth hundreds of dollars. But typical crooners can be bought for a few dollars.

"Summer isn't complete without the sound of a singing katydid in your courtyard," said Wang Xiaoming, 68, a lifelong Beijing resident who lives in a traditional hutong neighborhood, a warren of narrow alleys that are the last bastion of many Chinese traditions. …

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