The Qingming Festival (April 4th) is a good time for kite flying. Some folklorists hold that one of the main reasons ancient people invented kites was to commemorate deceased family members and friends. That’s why they would fly kites on the Qingming Festival, a day ancient people believed the gate of hell would throw open, to send their greetings to their deceased loved ones via the kite.
Kite is a symbol of the Chinese handicraft. Flying a kite is a very popular activity in all generations in China. It is easy to find the scene that when in the holidays, there are large numbers of people gathering to the squares and holding lines to control beautiful kites in the blue sky.
Chinese kite originated from the Warring States Period (476 BC-221 BC). The deft craftsman Lu Ban was said to be the inventor. His invention had the bird’ s name of ‘Yuan’, a kind of bird of hawk family with a long, often forked tail and a long pointed winds. He made the kite out of the thin wooden or bamboo strips.
After the Han Dynasty (206 BC -220 AD), paper was introduced into the kite-making and replaced the wood and bamboo. Hence, the kite got the name ‘Zhi Yuan’, as ‘Zhi’ in Chinese means paper. And during the Five Dynasties Period (907 A D -960 AD), people tied the bamboo whistle to the kite. When the kite is flying, the airflow can make the whistle sounded like Kucheng playing, hence the name ‘Fengcheng’.
As the civilization advanced, making and playing the kite became very popular in Weifang area, Shandong Province，in the Tang and Song Dynasties. Weifang’s kite has reached its heyday during the Tang and Song Dynasties. Every year in spring when the Tomb-sweeping day comes, the weather become warm. All most every household went out to fly the kite and have a picnic in sunny and windy days. It was an exuberant folk activity and a good time to display the kites as well as enjoy the warm weather and the fresh air. The tradition has been well kept until today and becomes the world-famous Weifang International Kite Festival, which is held from 20th to 25th in April every year.
Mozi and the kite
The earliest kites in China were made of wood. In the Spring and Autumn Period, Mozi succeeded in making a wooden sparrow hawk with boards after three years of experiment. But the wooden bird was damaged after just one day of flying. The wooden sparrow hawk made by Mozi (about 300 BC) some 2,400 years ago was the earliest kite in China and in the world as a whole.
Han Xin and the kite
According to the legend, during the Chu-Han Contention, when Xiang Yu, the Overlord of Western Chu, and his troops were besieged by the Han Army, Han Xin, a Han commander, ordered to make a kite and asked Zhang Liang to sit on it. While the kite was flying in the sky, Zhang Liang sang some Chu songs to break up the morale of the Chu army. Another version says that when Liu Bang was on a campaign against the rebel Chen Xi, Han Xin used a kite as a distance measurer, trying to push the army into the Weiyang Palace by digging tunnels as part of his action from inside in coordination with forces attacking from outside.
Kites in Weifang
Since Weifang has the tradition and history of kite, it is famous for its kite making. The kite making in Weifang is exquisite in style, beautiful in painting and good in quality. What’s more, it has abstracted the strongpoint of wooden New Year’s Painting, making its appearance more colorful, vivid, and elegant.
The masterpiece of Weifang kite is giant centipedes kite with Chinese dragonhead. It is as long as 100 Chi. Making such a giant fly needs the skill. Firstly, the head part should be raised than the tail part, and then use the power from the body parts to make the head rose higher. The connections between the body parts have specially designed, which ensures the kite fly.
Besides Weifang, Beijing, Tianjing, and Nantong in Jiangsu Province are also famous for their characteristic kites. Craftsmen usually make the kite according to the different animals, traditional mythologies and famous novel characters.
Benefits of Flying Kite
There’s an old saying in China – “those who fly a kite can have a long life.” It means that kite flying on a regular basis can lead to longevity. Meanwhile, the making of a gorgeous and novel kite is a creating process. When you look at your kite flying in the vast clear sky, your concentrated, gratified and relaxed mind strengthens the regulating function of higher nervous activity, boosting the health of the body and internal organs. Focusing your eyes on the kite flying among white clouds in the sky serves the same purpose as that of health-preserving qigong, and the effect is in line with mind cultivation in traditional Chinese medicine.
Flying kite in spring day is benefit to health, it’s a good way to stretches the physique, and reduce backache. When people flying kite, it can distract them from their troubles, help them forget the stressful environments and reconnect them to nature.