What do you know about kites? Well, April is National Kite Flying Month, so to celebrate, we're going to learn some things people might not know about kites. The image that people probably envision when they think about kites is most likely a lightweight object, typically shaped like a diamond (or triangle), that is flown high in the air by a string attached to it. I have known this description of kites since childhood, and from what I knew then, it was a popular item for outdoor leisure activity—and one of the quadrilaterals I learned in math (hey geometry). Today when I think of kites, I am reminded of kite sightings I see in spring near a beach in my area. But there is so much more than what people usually know about kites.
The origin of kites dates back some thousands of years ago in Asia. It has a cultural significance in countries like China and India, and other parts of Southeast Asia. And they aren’t just shaped like diamonds—kites can come in various shapes and sizes.
In honor of National Kite Month, here are several things to know about this popular aerial object:
1. Kites Come in a Variety of Looks
Earlier I mentioned the common look associated with kites was typically something similar to a diamond shape. Many kites you can purchase will have that shape or a triangular one. But one thing to know about kites is that they can be designed to take the shape of a face, an animal, a flower, mythical creatures, or anything really. Dragon kites are some of the most realistic looking kites there are. And even cooler, you can make your own with just a hanger, glue, some construction paper and string. Tap into your creative capabilities and learn to make a kite.
2. They are Native to China
Did you know about kites and their role in Chinese history? Although many countries have kites as part of their culture, historians say they were invented in China around 200 B.C. Evidence of this is that one of the first mentions of kites is in Chinese folklore. It is a tale about a Chinese general named Han Hsin who had his small army create a kite to measure the distance to attack an Emperor. That emperor would be conquered, and the successors would rule China by what we now know as the Han Dynasty. The Chinese went on to introduce the kite to surrounding countries India, Japan and Korea, and regions like the Pacific Islands.
3. They are sometimes Used in War
Who knew that about kites? Aerial warfare has quite a significant place in history, especially in both World Wars. Before planes were invented, yet alone used for war, kites were the first air devices used to drop bombs on enemies. They were also used to communicate and send messages via leaflets. Then later into the 19th century, kites would be used to lift up a soldier for surveillance of their enemies and contracting intelligence.
4. Kites can be used in Science Experiments
History says kites were introduced to the America in the mid-1700’s. One of America's founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, famously flew a kite during a thunderstorm to demonstrate an experiment about electricity and nature in 1752. This is the first recorded kite flying in American history, and Franklin proved that lightning carries electricity. After this experiment, he would invent the lightning rod. What a cool thing to know about kites—it aided one of the world's best inventors in a fascinating discovery!
5. Kites are involved in Festivals
There are kite festivals all around the world. At many of them, participants come to watch, fly, and compete in contests and other kite-related activities. In a common kite contest, kites are judged based on their size (the biggest or smallest kite), which kite can fly at the highest angle, and kite-racing, among many other competitions. In the U.S., you can probably find kite festivals hosted in your city. One of the most popular kite fests in the country is the Washington State International Kite Festival. It is held in mid-August every year in Long Beach, Washington for a week.
Outside of the U.S., the largest kite festivals in the world are held in China, India, Australia, and England. The International Kite Flying Festival in India boasts some of the most colorful, creative, and stylish kites in the annual fest which is held in January. China also holds a host of kite festivals. The biggest and most popular one is Weifang International Kite Festival, at which some of the best kites in China appear. Have some free time? Many kite festivals are free, and it might be something you'd be interested in doing this summer. Or if you plan on traveling abroad to Asia and want an event to attend, add a kite festival to your bucket list.
6. Did you know about Kites and Sports?
Aside from flying, one of the many activities to do with a kite is kite fighting. How do you fight with kites, you wonder? In the game, a kite flyer's objective is to cut the other opponent's kite or string with their own kite. The goal is to be the only flying kite in the end. It is a traditional sport mostly played in South and Central Asia. An interesting fact to know about kites and this sport—this fun game was once one of the many things banned by the Taliban during their rule in Afghanistan. It was only after the regime lost power did Afghans start flying kites again.
Before reading this, you probably thought kites were a children's toy. However, the kite has an extensive and interesting history in war, communication, competition, and leisure. What didn't you know about kites, that you know now?