Table Tennis – A Brief History

In spite of the fact that there are actually  table  tennis tournaments all over the world, especially in China where  table  tennis is a major sport, the game itself isn’t really taken seriously by many people. We could debate on the why of this until our sun goes nova but we’ll leave that debate for another time.

 Table  tennis, or what we affectionately refer to as “ping pong”, began as a mild diversion. It was viewed with the same lack of seriousness as lawn tennis and badminton. It became popular in England in the late 19th century. It was known under its present name of  table  tennis and ping pong as well as gossima and whiff-whaff. The name ping pong was introduced by J. Jaques and Sons. The game was named ping pong because of the sound that the ball made when striking the  table  when hit. At the time ping pong paddles were not yet invented. Instead they used vellum bats. In a very short time the game became a very fashionable craze. During the period, there were many paintings made of people playing  table  tennis, usually in a home setting.

By the early 1900s,  table  tennis had already started to take on many of the characteristics of the game that we know and love today. However, it was still seen by most people as after dinner entertainment rather than as a serious sport. During this period publications found it necessary to warn people about what kind of attire they should wear when playing this game, such as not to wear tight fitting clothing. These were obviously meant as satire because of the fact that nobody took the game seriously.

Between 1905 and 1910 the game became very popular in Europe until it finally made its way to Japan, China and Korea where  table  tennis has become a way of life. Today, more than 4 million people in China alone play  table  tennis and it is seen as a very serious and competitive sport.

In the meantime, after finding its way to the Asian countries,  table  tennis started to fade from the European scene but in the early 1920s it was again revived in England. By that time the name “ping pong” had actually become a registered trademark of the game. However, the term  table  tennis was still retained for the more serious organizations where  table  tennis was actually played for sport.

Over the next 60 years  table  tennis actually developed into a world wide sport but never really got the recognition that other major sports had gotten during the time except in the Asian countries. The game itself has remained relatively the same since the early days with the exception of the vellum bats being replaced by what we call ping pong paddles. The paddles themselves have gone through a few modifications as far as materials they are made out of but for the most part have remained unchanged from their early days.

 Table  tennis may never get the respect that some say it deserves, but most people who play it do admit that it is a lot of fun, and also very hard.