History of Kites

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Last updated: June 15, 2019

Made up of only thin lightweight fabric and strong sturdy wood, the kite isn’t just decorative piece of art but it symbolizes strong significance in most Asian countries. Kites play a different role in the countries that are custom to the kites. Throughout China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries, kites has always held an important role and will continue doing so. Ever since the first kite took flight in China more than 2,000 years ago, kites have never left the sky. (Schiller 2, Xie 1) The earliest written account of kite flying was about 200 B.

C. , Chinese generalHan Hsin of the Han dynasty flew a kite over the walls of a city he was attacking as a scout to measure the distance needed for his army to past the defenses. By knowing this distance, his troops stormed the city, surprised the enemy, and emerged victorious. (Xie 1) As kites began to gain popularity, it spread from China to Japan, Korea, Burma, and Malaysia, regions where kite flying still holds an important part of their culture. From there it spread to the middle east, who in turn brought it to North Africa and Europe around the 14th century.

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(Secrest 1)Kites come in all shapes and sizes. Many of which take the shape of insets, animals, and fictional creatures such as dragons. These decorative pieces are usually brightly colored and have beautiful designs. (Sanada 1) The earliest known Chinese kites were flat and often rectangular. These kites were made with materials that are well-known in China. Silk fabric was used for the sail, fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line, and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. (Britannica 1) The materials that make up the kites also come in a variety of fabrics and different aterials. Silk and cloth being the first fabric used in the construction of kites was soon adapted with paper being invented around the year 100 A.

D. (Secrest 1) One of Beijing’s most respected kite makers, Wang Naixin, still makes kites today. Wang hand makes all of his kites from start to finish the old fashioned way. Wang says, “Seeing something you made sail up into the sky – that was a real sense of (Trieu, Pg. 2) accomplishment as a child,” Knowing the boom and bustle of an expanding China,Wang is preserving the craft and nostalgia of the kite. Schiller 1, 2)The most popular kite we see today are diamond shaped and tailless, which is familiar in America. (Britannica 3) Commercial kites being flown today are made of a strong, light plastic such as nylon.

Nylon is extremely strong and lightweight making it the optimal choice for kites. (Secrest 2) The kite seemingly has one purpose used as entertainment but kites have been used for many important tools. Kites have been used to ward off evil, deliver messages, represent the gods, catch fish, spy on enemies, measure weather and lift passengers skyward. Britannica 1) There have been many written accounts of kites being used during war. During the Silla dynasty of Korea, 600A. D. , General Gim Yu-sin used a large kite to carry a fireball into the sky. The soldiers, seeing the light in the sky as a star, it lifted their spirits and rallied soldiers and defeated the enemy.

Ever since, Korean people viewed the kite as a miracle weapon to overcome enemy invasion. (Xie 1) Kites was later used during World War I, the British, French, Italian, and Russian armies all used the kites for enemy observation and signaling.The introduction of airplanes quickly made kites no longer useful for warfare.

(Xie 1) Many Asian countries use kites for religious and cultural reasons and also celebrate holidays throughout the year. In Thailand, during the month of March, people used kites at a ceremony to hasten the end of the rainy season, believing that the wind blowing through the bamboo would blow away the rain clouds. In China, the ninth day of the ninth month is a holiday honoring kites. In Japan and Korea, people fly kites during New Years. Koreans and Chinese would write words representing evil on the ites, then burn the kites or let them fly away in the sky after the New Year. The kites are thought to ward off evils and cleanse the spirit. (Xie 1) Another use of the kite would be in kite fighting tournaments.

Kite fighting became popular throughout Asia. Fighter kites were small, flat, made of paper, bamboo spine, and a balanced bow. The fighter kites were flown without tails making them agile and highly maneuverable.

Even though the rules of kite fighting varied from country to country, the (Trieu, Pg. 3) basic combat was to fly your kite to cut the opponent’s flying line. (Britannica 1)Perhaps the most famous use of the kite would be measuring the weather. During the 18th Century, Alexander Wilson of Scotland and Thomas Melville recorded the first scientific application to the kite.

By attaching thermometers to the kite to study the temperature of the air. Kites were used extensively throughout the 1830’s and 1840’s and continued to be used until the kite was replaced by weather balloons and later by satellites. (Britannica 2, Secrest 2) In June 1752, in what is the most famous of kite experiments, Benjamin Franklin, along with his son, flew a kite into the sky during a ightning storm, with metal key attached to the flying line.

The line got struck by lightning and Franklin proved that lightning was the natural phenomenon called electricity. Shortly after, the lightning rod was invented due to the outcome of the experiment conducted by Benjamin Franklin. (Britannica 2, Secrest 2) The kite has been evolving for over 2,000 years now. Changing along with the new technologies and remaining the same in the cultures of many.From being hand made from cloth and wood one at a time, to being on a assembly line constructed with nylon by the thousands.

Although the shape and aterials have changed throughout the centuries, the role and symbol it stands for the Asian countries remain unchanged.Work Cited Britannica, Encyclopedia. “Kite. ” 2009. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

29, April 2009 . Sanada, Hisashi. “Kites and Kite Flying. ” Encyclopedia of Moder Asia. Ed.

Karen Christensen and David Levinson. Vol. 3.

New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 380-381. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Cuny – Kingsborough Community College. 29 Apr.

2009 . Schiller, Bill. “Artisan’s passion is ancient art of kite making; Beijing designer devotes his life to reserving craft amid boom and bustle of an ever-expanding China” The Toronto Star May 19, 2009 Pg. A09 Secrest, Rose. “Kite.

” How Products Are Made: An Illustrated Guide to Product Manufacturing. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe.

Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 293-296.

Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. CUNY – Kingsborough Community College. 21 May 2009 . Xie, Philip F. “Kite Flying. ” Encyclopedia of Recreation and Leisure in America. Ed.

Gary S. Cross. Vol.

1. Detroit: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2004. 493-494. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. CUNY – Kingsborough Community College.

21 May 2009 .


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