When kites were first invented in Chinese culture some 2,500 years ago, they were intended to be a sky-reaching symbol that signified a geometric code for perpetual life. Referred to as “paper eagles,” these simple structures were first made of bamboo and wood and were displayed in a white “T” shaped design (a symbol of longevity for the living and of eternity for those no longer on earth). As time continued, kites evolved and grew in popularity. Inventors perfected the craft. During the Han Dynasty, General Han Xin substituted the wood frame used by previous artists with thin pasted silk. After the art of paper making was invented by Cai Lun, paper replaced the silk used in kites. A combination of these traditional techniques and modern methods may be seen in the kite making crafts of today.
At present, Weifang, in Shandong Province, is the most famous kite making city in all of China. Each year there is an annual festival at which new kites are displayed and rival kite-flying teams compete for international recognition. Here you can find Wong Yong-Xun, the manager of a kite factory in Weifang. For the ChinaVine team members who visited with him in May of 2009, he shared the unique qualities or their beautifully hand-crafted kites. He said that there are many kinds of kites. Some of the varieties of kites include the ordinary flat kite, animal or insect kite, three-dimensional kite, kite of human figure, kite of an object, and the stringed kite. He also said that the fold is what it is all about as it gives it the form and ability to fly.
In the factory several kites are made at once. The artists use scissors, files, pliers, clamps, brushes, wires, string, and razors as tools. They use a fabric that is made from a treated silk and create its structure from a kind of bamboo which is heated at just the right temperature to create the desired curve for the kite’s form. Mr. Wang says that natural dyes used to be applied to the kites, and now they use commercial dyes which provide a wider range of color. They sometimes use instrumental items such as bells or whistles as sound can play an important part in the kite flying experience.
Themes associated with the kites often originate from famous folktales. On this particular visit, Mr. Wang related a famous story where the mouse marries the daughter. The question of the tale is who will be the most powerful husband? The clouds, the sun, the wind, or the wall might be the most powerful. However, the mouse can go through the wall so the mouse may win the marriage of the daughter. But the mouse fears cats, so the cat may be the most powerful. So the daughter was to marry the cat for the mouse was too afraid to go through the wall, but before they got married, the cat ate the daughter.
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