kites & china

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Kites & ChinaVincent WiegelHerman Loeve

Kites & ChinaA (very) short history of ChinaHistory and Chinese kitesUse and application of kitesTypes of Chinese kitesMaterials usedKites in Chinese poetry / literature

History of China

Thanks to Pojanji pictures used under creative commons license

History of China & Kytes

Kites use / applicationMaterials/ typesKites and poetry / literature

PropagandaSignal troopsMo Li 3 years 1st kiteHistory of China & Kites

Kites use / applicationCarry troops Lu Ban Chu- Han wars - Han Hsin general besieging fortress assessing lengthHomesickness - Zhang LiangLooking for omenPast timeLiterary expressionCall for help SOS EmperorWudi Liang dynasty 464-549 AD surrounded by rebels

History of China & Kites

Materials / typesWooden kites - MuyuanPaper kites - ZhiyuanBamboo strips attached to kite make sound in the wind - FengzhengSilk kites - MuyuanCentipede, Hard Winged, Soft WingedFlat

Kites and poetry / literature / cultureHot air balloon 1783Airplane 1904History of China & KitesSail from boat blownHeaddress flew off held by chin bandOfficial banners more visible Book of Han Fei Zi - Mu ZiBook of Hong Shu - Lu BanFly kite & let go : bad luck and illness will goPicking up a lost kite: bad luckCh'ing Ming -Pure BrightnessJudge Tie Gullik president of high court marooned by outlaws

When the feast of cold fare begins in the third moon Excursionists will roam the banks of the BaiLang riverBoys flying kites and girls swinging in the air In springtime the grass is already very longAnd many swallows return

Guo Lin


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The kite first appeared in war in China from 770 BC - 476 BC. According to historical records, the prominent ideologist Mo Zi spent 3 years constructing the world's first bamboo kite. One book noted that Lu Ban, a Chinese carpenter, engineer, philosopher, inventor, and military strategist also made kites which were flown high to spy on the situation of the enemy during battle.

The technology evolved further during the famous historical Chu-Han War of 203 - 202 BC. The general of the Han troops, Zhang Liang ordered his soldiers to fly kites in the heavy fog around the Chu troops led by Xiang Yu. Children sitting in the large kites played songs that reminded the enemy of home on their flutes. Hearing the melodies, the Chu soldiers began to miss their homes and left without fighting in the war. Kites were also used during this period by the Han troops to deliver messages.

During the Tang Dynasty from 618 AD - 907 AD society began to develop steadily and prosperously. Kites were used in the area of amusement instead of in military affairs. Entertainment thrived with the development of culture and economy and kites became the treasures of the people of the court and the country. Every Ch'ing Ming (which means "Pure Brightness") people took time not just to worship their ancestors but also to take a walk in the countryside to enjoy pastoral life. During this time the people of China would make and fly kites to enjoy the pleasing mood of Spring. Kite-flying is still to this day believed to be good for the soul and ones health.

With the innovation of papermaking, the raw material of Chinese kite changed from silk to paper. Chinese kites became popular among civilians with a richer variety of forms and reached the peak point in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Participated by the literary, the making and the decoration of kites underwent great development. Chinese kite making became a profession due to the large demand. The Ming Dynasty(1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty, was the peak period of the Chinese kite history.

The technology evolved further during the famous historical Chu-Han War of 203 - 202 BC. The general of the Han troops Zhang Liang ordered his soldiers to fly kites in the heavy fog around the Chu troops led by Xiang Yu. Children sitting in the large kites played tunes of Chu (the present Hubei Province) on flutes. Hearing the melodies, the Chu soldiers began to miss their homes and scattered without fighting in the war. Xiang Yu, who had been so powerful and renowned for a time, cut his throat. Another use of kites during this period was to deliver urgent messages.

In 200 BC a Chinese General Han Hsin used a kite to fly over a castle he was besieging then used the length of the kite line to ascertain how far he had to tunnel so that he could successfully enter the fortress. Another General under siege used kites with harps fitted to them and at night flew them over the enemy camp. He sent spies into the camp and when the kites started making a wailing noise the rumour was spread around that the Gods were warning them of a great defeat the next day and consequently the enemy fled in terror. (The name for kite in China is FEN ZHENG, fen is wind and zheng is a stringed musical instrument.)

In the 13th century Marco Polo wrote about how the shipping merchants tied someone (usually a drunk) to a huge kite and launched the kite with the drunk attached before the ship set sail. If the kite went high and straight it meant a quick and prosperous voyage but if it crashed or didnt fly well it was a bad omen which meant no-one set sail.

The designs on most Chinese kites have a symbolic meaning or illustration from Chinese folklore or history. Tortoises, cranes and peaches signify long life, bats are a sign of good luck, butterflies and flowers represent harmony and a dragon design represents power and prosperity.

For over 1000 years the Chinese thought that by flying kites they would avoid bad luck and the higher the kite was flown the more prosperous they would become. The kite is still used in China today to ward off evil spirits and to bring good luck and is also regarded to be a good and healthy pastime for people of all ages. The Chinese also believe that looking up at a kite improves your eyesight and when tilting the head backwards the mouth opens slightly ridding the body of excess heat thus achieving a good Yin-Yang balancein the body.

During the Cultural Revolutionkite flying was banned and a few Chinese kite makers who ignored the ban were given a 3 year jail sentence and all their kites were destroyed by the Red Guards. Others kite makers who wanted keep their skills and carry on the ancient tradition made miniture kites in secret. These kites are now highley collectable. The present government encourages kite making and flying as a means of keeping healthy, also the manufacturing and exporting of kites which adds to the economy.