Hey there, kite lovers! We at Tumbleweeds & Tarantula’s are passionate about kites. And so we are a part of an international community that enjoys the simple pleasures of kite flying. We are also just one chapter in the long history of the kite.

Did you know that kites have been around for thousands of years? Did you know that they have been used for an array of purposes, not just for fun and recreation? For our May blog I want to share some odd kite history. While we are at it, I will also introduce to some unusal kite events.

Here are some examples of how kites have played a role in history and culture, and a couple of festivals that might inspire an international adventure.

  • In ancient China, kites were used for an array of military purposes. They were used for signaling and for measuring distances. According to ancient texts and legends, some kites were even fitted with firecrackers or bombs to scare or attack enemies. One legend says that a general named Han Xin devised an ingenious plan to get his army across the river. Using a kite he was able to get a rope across the river, and that served as the primary cable for construction of a bridge.
  • In Japan, kites were considered sacred objects. They were used for religious ceremonies and festivals. These kites were decorated with colorful images of gods, animals, and various symbols of good luck. A tangible link to that history is one of the most famous kite festivals in Japan. During Hamamatsu Kite Festival hundreds of large colorful kites as well as kites designed to appear as dragons are flown by enthusiasts from throughout the world. And as might be expected, there are also kite battles.
  • In India, for centuries kites have been a popular recreational pastime. Participants work on kites for months in anticipation of weel attended annual events. One of the most celebrated kite festivals in India is Makar Sankranti. Historically this event marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn. People fly colorful kites of various shapes and sizes and during battles try to cut each other’s kite strings with glass-coated threads.
  • In 18th century France, kites were used for scientific experiments and discoveries. These experiments inspired Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiment in 1752, where, according to legend, he flew a kite with a metal key attached to it during a thunderstorm and proved that lightning is electricity. Another example of how early French experiments inspired inventors is Alexander Graham Bell’s work with tetrahedral kites. He was looking to devise a means for human flight.
  • In Australia, as in the United States, kites are used for sport as well as recreational entertainment. One of the most popular kite sports in Australia is kite surfing, where a person rides a surfboard while being pulled by a large kite. Another popular kite event in Australia is the Festival of the Winds at Bondi Beach, where thousands of people gather to fly and watch kites of all shapes and sizes.

Do you know any other interesting facts or stories about kites? Let me know in the comments below.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America