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History of Kites

Everyone knows kites as objects that are designed to fly high in the air while being manually operated by a human… but do you know the history of kites?

What are Kites?

History of Kites

Kites generally have three main components: the kite’s body, a tether, and a harness. This type of construction promotes wind resistance. As kites are released into the air, air pressure forms under the kite and pushes it to fly.

History of Kites

The history of kites goes back 3000 years ago to China where these man-made flying creations first make their debut. Since its first aerial appearance, kites have gone through a lot of minor transformations when it comes to construction and design, but its original structure and form have remained the same over the years.

Kite-flying started in China when the military there designed a new type of aircraft to serve various purposes. During the Han Dynasty, for example, a general would use kites to measure the distance from a certain standing point down to the enemy’s point. He would use this measurement to construct a tunnel the military could create to penetrate the enemy’s territory.

Kite’s Spread

Years after, the history of kites expanded as kites reached the Pacific and Polynesian islands. Records have shown kites being used in India, Indonesia, Burma, and Malaysia, simultaneously.

It is believed that the silk route contributed to the proliferation of kites in North Africa and Arabia while the Dutch East India Company and Portuguese traders were responsible for bringing kites to the Europeans. It is also suggested that Genghis Khan, along with his Mongolian soldiers, carried kites with them as they occupied Asia and Central Europe.

Other Theories

Another story says that kites may have come from Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, where kites made of leaves were used for fishing. A fisherman would paddle his boat and fly a kite high enough to hover over the boat.

From his kite, a line was dropped as it pulled bait made of a spider’s web through the water. The kite’s shadow would resemble a large bird while the bait and its catch got caught in a fishing web. The fisherman would reel in the line, take the fish, and releases the kite once again.

Uses of Kites

There are numerous historical records of the various uses of kites. For example:

  • One Japanese story tells of a robber who used a kite to lift himself up to a castle’s roof where golden statues were kept. Although he was able to steal pieces of gold, he was unsuccessful in his escape. He was faced with execution for his crime.
  • The Japanese and the Chinese used kite flying to lift soldiers up in the air to spy on their enemies. Chinese and Japanese pictures illustrate soldiers hovering over their enemies.
  • In Korea, kites became part of their customs and traditions. It is Korean tradition to write the birthdates and names of young boys on kites and fly them. The kite’s line will then be cut to signify the release of bad spirits and the welcoming of a great year.
  • Likewise in Thailand, a monarch's kite would be raised throughout the winter season by the priests. The people of Thailand would also fly kites during the monsoon season as ways of sending their prayers to their gods.
  • In the 18th century, kites were used to assist in scientific research and weather monitoring. Who isn’t familiar with the popular story wherein Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a storm in 1752 just to provide proof that lighting had electrical properties?
  • Kites were also incorporated in Alexander Graham Bell’s experiments.
  • Kites are known to have laid the foundation for the invention and development of the airplane.
  • Lawrence Hargrave was able to lift himself up from the ground using four kites. He also developed many new designs for kites as well as gliders in his mission to construct a flying machine.

Kites have a long and distinguished history, in addition to be fun flying toys for children.