History of Kites

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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 general

Han 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. (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

materials. 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...
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