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China Information >> Folk Culture
Chineses Kites

History of Chinese Kites

Chinese Kites were first invented by Chinese about 2,000 years ago. At about the 12th century, kites were introduced to the western countries. Afterwards, with the continuous development, the different specific cultures of kites were gradually formed in both eastern and western countries. During the procedure of kites, development, some special local culture concerning kites formed after combining Chinese traditional culture and the handicraft of making kites and presenting some fairy tales, flowers, birds, animals, and some morals implying lucky on kites.

Originally, kites were used in military affairs. When the middle of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) came, the society began to develop steadily and prosperously, thus kites were used in the area of entertainment instead of in military affairs. Besides, the material for making kites was silk at first. But, silk was replaced by papers as the fast development of paper. When the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D) came, it had become an occupation to make kites. And it was during the period of the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty that the craftsmanship of kites developed rapidly. At that time, litterateurs made kites and painted on them by themselves and then flew those kites or presented them to their relatives and friends, and what’s more, they considered this to be an artistic activity. Recently, kite undertaking in China has been fully developed and flying kites has widely spread as a popular activity suitable for sports and entertainment as well as building up bodies.

ince the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, Chinese kites have spread to the outside world. First, they were introduced to some countries in Southeast Asia such as Korea, Japan, and Malaysia and so on; and later were introduced to some European and American countries. Afterwards, under the influence of the Industrial Revolution of Europe, Chinese kites, originally as a kind of toy, enlightened some scientists to design aerocrafts. And after the contribution and experiments of Carrie in Britain, Hargreave in Australia, and Lee Lindahl in Germany, it was the Wright brothers from America who finally succeeded in making the first manned plane in human history which could successfully take off.

Therefore, in honor of Chinese kites, there hangs a Chinese kite saying "the earliest aircrafts are Chinese kites and fire arrows" on the wall of the hall inside the Astronavigation Museum in Washington, America. 

hinese Kite Craftmanship

Chinese kites enjoy a long history and super craftsmanship, which has been well-known a long time ago. The traditional skills for making Chinese kites can be introduced in four words – binding, pasting, painting, and flying, which are called “four skills”. Superficially, we can simply understand these four words as follows: binding is to bind a frame; pasting is to paste the surface of paper; painting is to paint some beautiful pictures on the paper; flying is to fly the kite when everything is finished. However, it is difficult to closely study the four skills because they have rich and comprehensive connotation and almost contain all the profound details in making Chinese kites.

Chinese kites are framed by thin bamboos and then pasted with paper or silk. The four skills of "binding, pasting, painting, and flying" for making kites have strict requirements. To bind a kite should meet the requirement of symmetry, which enables both sides of the kite to support itself balanceablely against the wind. To paste a kite demands the neatness and efficiency of the whole kite. Paintings on a kite should be visible in the distance and vivid at close range. When flying a kite, people should adjust the angle of the thread according to the wind. Kites can be divided into two kinds – the one with hard wings and the one with soft wings. Kites with hard wings can support itself in heavy wind and fly higher than others, while kites with soft wings can not fly too high but can fly far away. Besides, there appear many new patterns of kites with characters painted on them in recent years, which are different from those traditional ones with pictures of animals, insects, and fishes. Hence, there form different schools and styles of kites with specific characteristics, among which the most well-known ones are from Beijing, Tianjin, Weifang in Shandong Province, Sichuan Province, and Guangdong Province.

Weifang Kites

Weifang kites mainly have three basic molding: string, hard wings and simple appearance, which can best be presented by a kite of "centipede with dragon head".

Besides centipede, Weifang kites in long strings present many other themes. For example, "the 108 heroes from Liang Hill" vividly show the different appearances and figures of those heroes who are standing in a row with swords in hands. When the kite flies in the wind, it seems that those heroes are about to start off responding to the roaring drums and fight against the Song Dynasty.

In April, 1984, a huge kite of centipede with dragon head flied above the northern beach in Weifang. The kite, which was 320 meters long with a diameter of 1.2-meter in the middle and a head of 4-meter in height and 4-meter in length, was the biggest one all over the country at that time.