Odds & Ends and the joy of kite flying transcends barriers of language, of culture and of age. It is nearly universal in nature. In most every country in the world you can find people laughing as they send kites high into the sky to dance on the breeze. Kites are the ultimate family activity.
Countless children’s books have been written about the flying of kites. For some that instills a life long enjoyment for kites and kite festivals. For others these books, and a bit of kite flying become cherished memories that they share wit their children and grandchildren.
Kites and kite flying have a long and colorful history. The general consensus among historians is that kite flying originated in China. The earliest written accounts of kites date to accounts of Chinese general Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). In these accounts the general flew a kite above a besieged town which allowed him to calculate distances needed for his army to dig tunnels under the city wall.
Numerous legends of ancient military battles contain stories of the role that kites played. In Korea during the era know as the Three Kingdoms (4-645 A.D.) General Gim Yu-sin was tasked with the subjugation of a revolt. When a meteorite streaked across the sky as this was deemed an ill omen. The general told his troops that as he had control over the stars this was instead a sign of favor with the gods. According to legend the next night the crafty general used a kite to create the illusion of a fire ball in the sky. The troops rallied, the revolt was subdued and the general was amply rewarded.
As China was at the center of a vast trade network it is not surprising to learn that kite flying soon spread through Asia including Korea and Japan. Within a few hundred years of these early written accounts kites had appeared in India, the Middle East and even Europe.
According to the journals of Marco Polo, the legendary explorer that is credited with introducing China to Europa, he arrived in the city of Weifang in approximately 1282 A.D. In his writings he marveled at the flying of a manned kite. According to Polo, the navy and merchant vessels tested the winds with these kites. In this account a sailor was bound to the large kite tethered to a ship. If the kite and sailor rode the wind it was deemed suitable conditions for a favorable voyage. Among the many wonders that Marco Polo brought back to Italy were Chinese kites. As trade along the Silk Road developed, the kite came to be a familiar site in Europe.
Odds & Ends,
If you are new to kites, are intrigued by their history, just want to revisit a bit of childhood or make memories with a new generation, Tumbleweeds & Tarantulas is your one stop shop.
This blog was written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America