As kites were invented before the written word many suggestions have been made as to how they originated. The Chinese had the basic building materials to make kites - silk and bamboo and were the first people to write about kites. In 478 BC it was recorded that a Chinese Philosopher, Mo Zi, spent 3 years making a hawk from wood which flew. There are many theories as to how the kite was invented - one is that a Chinese man’s hat may have been blown off and was caught by the neckband which made it fly in the wind. Another theory is that to make a high officials banner more visible, it was strengthened with a bamboo frame and flown, or it may have been inspired by seeing the sails of fishing boats being blown in the wind. (The sail was in use in China 3000yrs ago)


 There are many stories from ancient China about kiteflying. 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.)
   The Chinese Emperors also used kites in wartime to send signals to their troops. Large kites were used to carry warriors armed with bows and arrows that would fire down on the enemy below. 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 didn’t fly well it was a bad omen which meant no-one set sail.
 When paper was invented approximately 1000 years later the making of kites became a pastime in which most people could partake. Originally a simple flat rectangle, the kite developed into complex 3-D shapes elaborately decorated and flown on religious and ceremonial occasions offering fertility, happiness, victory etc.
 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.
a bat and peach kite - symbol of long life and good luck
   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 balance in the body. 
 Most Chinese kites are made with a 3 diamentional bamboo frame and a silk or paper covering. The complex shapes and designs are achieved by bending bamboo over a flame or soaking it in water. Over 100 pieces of shaped bamboo are used in the construction of some dragon heads.
During the Cultural Revolution kite 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.                                                              
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