When you walk around Jinji lake in Suzhou it’s not hard to figure out that people in China love flying kites (they invented them too). The many kite sellers and their customers are a dead give away, although they all seem to be hiding from the heat these days. Of course the Chinese would not be the Chinese if their kites did not have bells and whistles, usually in the form of lights, some so strong that we wondered what in god’s name was flying so high up in the sky on a recent summer evening. Apparently Chinese people like to fly their kites as high as possible and then let go of the string. In an article by CRI English on kite-flying in China Cui Puquan explains why:
People believe that bad luck and illness would fly away with the kites. Conversely, picking up a kite lost or released by someone else could bring bad luck. So people who find kites on the roofs of their houses have to cut them into pieces and burn them to avoid getting bad luck.
The kite has been claimed as the invention of the 5th-century BC Chinese philosophers Mozi and Lu Ban. China had the right materials for the job, silk and bamboo. Weifang in Shandong Province is considered the birthplace of the kite and is known as the kite capital of the world. They have a kite museum and they host the International Kite Festival once a year in April. If that’s not proof enough…
For real kite-
nerdslovers, I can recommend this video on Discovery Channel’s Curiosity about the invention of the kite. It also shows how kites are handcrafted in Weifang.
The Chinese were also the first (this one is not something to be proud of) to strap humans to kites. Tyrant Gao Yang (reigned 550-559) executed prisoners by making them fly from a tall tower with bird-shaped kite wings. All but one of the approx. 500 prisoners found their death. Now there’s a nice story…
Charlie Brown seems to have same amount of luck when it comes to kites. He has to deal with his own tyrant, the Kite-Eating-Tree.
Enjoy your weekend!