Legend of the Kite still have an international appeal equal to the kite. Kite flying is popular in Beijing, China, Bullhead City, Arizona, and Cape Tpwn, South Africa.
But where did the kite originate? Many historians that have worked to answer that question start with the earliest written references. But kites predate the written word, and there is tantalizing evidence that prehistoric peoples were sending kites to the heavens.
There are oral histories about kites in the shape of animals among various groups of Polynesian people. Native peoples in New Zealand also have myths and legends about kites. Hard evidence of kites in prehistory is almost nonexistent. But there is a plethora of ancient traditions liked to kites.
China claims to the be wellspring for the modern incarnation of the kite. There are written accounts of kite flying such as the story about a kite being used to send a message during a rescue mission that dates to about 550 A.D.
There is another reason to think of China as the cradle for the infancy of the kite. Scant evidence hints that it was here that leaf kites were replaced by silk fabric kites. Silk was also ideally suited for flying line. And Chinese bamboo provides a strong, lightweight framework.
Chinese historians often claim that 5th-century BC Chinese philosophers Mo Di and Gongshu Ban were the first to develop the modern kite. And of course there are ancient Chinese texts that reference kites being used to lift men, to measure distance, for military purposes such as communication and for signaling.
In early China, India, Japan and other Asian cultures early kites took on a religious aspect. They were often adorned with mythological motifs or legendary figures. The use of whistles and strings allowed the kite to “sing.”
Generally the arrival of the kite in Europe is credited to the stories of Marco Polo, a 12th century explorer. Tales of his adventures to China were as epic as the tales of the Iliad and Odyssey of earlier times. But it is worth noting that the Romans used windsocks for ceremonies and for military communication.
Legend of the Kite, In the modern era the kite figures prominently in a blending of myth and fact. There is the story of Benjamin Franklin publishing experiments about using lightning and kites to study electricity in 1750. The Wright brothers used kites to test aeronautical theories before they took flight.
And surprisingly, even in the 20th century, kites were still used for military applications. Did you know that in WWI and WWII, the German and Allied armies used kites for communications as well as metrological research?
Kite flying today remains an important cultural activity. And it is still popular among children and people that simply enjoy relaxing by having a kite dance on the wind.
In Bullhead City, on the Colorado River in western Arizona the seasoned kite enthusiast, or the novice, can find everything they need at Tumbleweeds & Tarantulas, your one stop kite shop.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America