Kites (fēngzhēng 风筝)
Do you know the Chinese were flying kites as early as the 5th Century BC? The first kites were made of bamboo and silk and were used for military purposes, not for fun! Army generals used them to measure distances for moving troops over a large area of land. They were also used for signaling and to measure wind speed. By the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), kites had become decorative and artistic. They showed beautiful pictures of birds or flowers, or were in the form of mythological or symbolic creatures.
Today, kites in China come in all shapes and sizes. The longest ever kite was flown in 2015 at the Chongqing International Kite Festival and was 6 000m long! Kites are flown at any time of the year. But they are often flown on Tomb Sweeping Day in early April which is a public holiday to remember and honour ancestors. Some people like to write messages on kites, hoping the kites can carry the messages to family members who are no longer living.
Make it at home! – A Recycled Newspaper Kite
There are many websites you can find with instructions on how to make beautiful Chinese-style kites. You can practice by making a simple 4 sided-shaped kite like this one.
You will need:
- A full sheet of newspaper (a white garbage bag also works) – painted and decorated if you want!
- 2 wooden dowels (one 24”, one 20”)
- Masking tape
- A small handsaw
Optional: yarn and ribbons
- Cut the dowels to the correct length if necessary. (Ask an adult to help with step 1 and 2)
- Use the handsaw the make notches across both ends of the two dowels. This is for wrapping the string around the frame of the kite.
- Lay the longer dowel on the floor and make a mark 6” from the top. Lay the shorter dowel at that mark to form a T-shape and use the string to wrap them tightly together where they meet. Make sure the notches on the dowel ends are all parallel to the floor before you wrap the string. Wrap masking tape over the string to secure the two dowels together.
- Wrap the string all the way around the kite, making sure it goes into the notches. You will have made a classic kite-shape frame.
- Lay your large sheet of newspaper on the floor and lay the frame on it. Cut about 1 inch outside the frame to make the newspaper the same shape.
- Fold the edges of the newspaper over the frame and tape down securely.
- Cut a piece of string 24 inches long. Poke holes into the top and bottom points of the kite. Tie one end of the string into the top hole and one end into the bottom hole. (Use some tape to keep it secure.) This is the bridle of your kite. Tie your flying string to this brindle string to fly your kite. You may need to adjust the position of the flying string on the bridle when you fly it.
- Optional: tie ribbons on to the yarn to make a tail for the kite.
- You are ready to fly!