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Chinese Kite Designs

Chinese kite designs are more than just fabulous flyers, they are also works of art that tell stories about fighting dragons, butterflies and caterpillars. While they may look intricate and slightly intimidating, it's possible to handcraft your own Chinese kite at home with the help of step-by-step instructions.

Chinese Kite

Early Chinese Kite Designs

Long before Ben Franklin hoisted up a kite to conduct an experiment on electricity, the Chinese had mastered the art of kite crafting.

The first version, made in 475 B.C., was designed from bamboo. Chinese history reveals that the crudely constructed kite was created for military purposes and not as the playthings they've evolved into today.

Since taking flight centuries ago, Chinese kites have morphed into elaborate flying objects that can be seen from miles away. No longer are they constructed solely from wood; instead, Chinese kite designs fall into two categories:

  • Fixed Wing: This type of kite is designed to fly high and steady. Its non-detachable wings remain affixed to the frame of the kite, allowing it to dip and dive with ease. Fixed wing Chinese kites are known for their large size and ostentatious designs, including fish, insects, animals, birds and humans. They range in size from a few yards to nearly 1,000 feet long.
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  • Detachable Wing: If you are looking for a Chinese kite design that is portable and easy to fly, consider this version. Kites with detachable wings can be taken apart and transported with few problems. The downside is that they don't elicit the same oohs and aahs as the larger fixed wing varieties.

How to Make a Chinese Kite

To make your own Chinese kite at home, you will need some wood (preferably bamboo), material to cover the frame (silk or nylon work best) and some string. Once you collect the materials, you can select a kite design that best suits your crating abilities.

How to Make a Chinese Kite

Beginner Level Kite

For a small Chinese kite that is perfect for young kids to craft, follow these directions:

  1. Use a pair of scissors to cut-out a simple shape (flower, heart, fish, butterfly, etc.) from a manila folder. This will be the body of your kite.
  2. Match the size of the design to a pair of wooden chopsticks or bamboo dowels.
  3. Decorate the manila folder cut-out with bold colors and Chinese symbols.
  4. Fold the body of the kite in half, and then punch out two small holes near the top and bottom.
  5. Unfold and fold the kite horizontally about one third of the way down from the very top.
  6. Punch three holes each on the left and right sides of the kite.
  7. Weave the chopsticks through the holes to resemble a cross or lowercase t-shape.
  8. Cut a piece of string for the kite's bridle and tie it to the spine of the t-shape.
  9. Tie a small loop of string to the bridle, and then attach another loop to the bottom of the spine, so you can connect a long, but even, ribbon for the kite's tail.
  10. Tie a line to the loop on your bridle.

Your kite is ready to fly.

Intermediate Level Kite

Intermediate Kite

Once you get the hang of kite crafting, you can experiment with more advanced models, such as the following Chinese kite design that has similarities to the triangular Delta kite:

  1. Decide how large you want to make your kite. There is no standard size in Chinese kite designs. However, keep in mind that very small kites will struggle to get the same lift as large kites.
  2. Conversely, kites that are too big are harder to keep in the air.
  3. Cut-out a triangle shape from lightweight paper or a polyethylene sheet.
  4. Use carpentry glue to affix two wooden dowels together in a cross shape.
  5. Bend the wooden t-shape frame so that it sits in the middle of the kite's triangle body.
  6. Paste the body and frame together and allow to dry thoroughly.
  7. Thread string from the cross point of the t-frame to bottom of the kite. Then, attach your thread wheel to the string.
  8. Add some silk strips to the bottom of the kite to create a tail.

Finish the kite by painting like a bat. In the Chinese culture bats are associated with good fortune and a long life.

Ways to Customize Your Chinese Kite

Ways to Customize Your Chinese Kite

Dragon heads are often attached to long kites that resemble centipedes. These elaborate designs are made by building a basic triangle kite and stacking multiple flat sections together, then adding fabric wings.

Depending on how long you want your dragon kite to be, you could be looking at bending 100 pieces of bamboo to create the frame of your kite. To further customize the look of your kite, consider painting it to resemble a crane, flower or adding messages of good luck.