History of ping pong

Community centres, backyards, gyms, bars, and family game rooms; Ping Pong, also known as table tennis, earns its title as one of the most popular games in the world by being a centrepiece in homes and establishments all around the globe. 

But how did this come to be? How did such a simple game evolve into a popular pastime and competitive scene? 

We’ve got you covered with a brief history of ping pong below!

When and where was ping pong invented?

Despite the game’s dominant popularity in parts of Asia like China and Japan today, ping pong was invented sometime in the late 19th century in Victorian England. 

Who invented ping pong?

The game that would eventually come to be called ping pong was invented by mid-to-upper-class Victorian England society as a parlour game to be played after meals.

Lawn tennis was a popular summer game, but it couldn’t be played during the winter. Out of this need for winter-time pastimes came ping pong, which could be played regardless of weather conditions. 

The 150-year evolution and history of ping pong

The general idea of ping pong – volleying a ball back and forth over a hard surface – has stayed relatively the same since its invention over 150 years ago. But the game’s name, the equipment used to play it, and specific rules have evolved quite drastically. 

Group of people playing ping pong outside in a park.

In the beginning, champagne corks or golf balls served as balls, rows of books as nets, and cigar boxes or wide-surface books as paddles. These initial harder objects used to play the game make it easier to understand why it came to be called ping pong, with “ping” representing the sound of the ball striking the paddle and “pong” representing the sound of the ball hitting the table. 

From champagne corks to ping pong balls

But only at the turn of the century in 1901 did ping pong become a more official name when J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it. When using Jaques’ trademarked equipment, the game was called ping pong; with other equipment, the game was called table tennis. 

1901 ended up being a significant year for the development of ping pong. Firstly, the switch to celluloid balls (similar to the plastic hollow ones we’re used to today) occurred after James W. Gibb discovered them while travelling in America. Then, paddles evolved into thin pieces of wood encased in rubber – an invention by E.C. Goode.

Getting a seat on the world stage

Also, during this year, tournaments began being organized, resources written on the game, and even an unofficial world champion. But it wasn’t until 1926 that the first official World Championships took place in London, sanctioned by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), which was formed earlier the same year. 

From this point on, ping pong quickly spread far beyond its English roots to become a game of choice in China, the Soviet Union, and many other places worldwide, eventually becoming an Olympic sport in 1988. 

Ping-pong equipment and rules

You’re likely familiar with the equipment needed to play ping pong: two paddles (also known as bats or rackets), a ball, a table, and a net. Let’s take a closer look at each of these pieces of equipment.

Today’s paddles are typically made of wood, foam, and pimpled or stippled rubber. Following the proper play, each side of the paddle needs to be a different color. 

Regulation tables are nine by five feet with a playing surface of 30 inches above the ground and support a net in the middle that is 6 feet long and 6 inches high. 

Ping pong balls can be white, yellow, or orange and weigh approximately 0.09 ounces with a diameter of roughly 1.6 inches. 

Father and daughter playing ping pong with oversized paddles outside in a park.

Now, onto ping pong rules. With one or two players on either end of the table, the basic idea is to hit the ball so that it bounces over the net and hits your opponent’s side of the table in such a way that they can’t return it to your side. 

When your opponent can’t return the ball, it counts as a point, and whoever reaches 11 points first wins. Or, if it gets to a point where both players have 10 points, the first player to earn a two-point lead wins. 

Leading up to 10 points, players switch serving every two points; after 10 points are reached on both sides, players switch serving every point. 


So that’s the history of ping pong in a nutshell. Ready to join the legacy yourself?

Our mission here at Tiger PingPong is to bring the fun of table tennis to everyone.  We focus on making quality products that you will enjoy using. We stress over the technical stuff so all you have to do is pick up a paddle and play. 

Get the ball bouncing by checking out our selection today!