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The Art of the Sky: Exploring Traditional Kite Making in Chinese Intangible Cult

By LingoAce新媒体团队 |中国 |February 25, 2024

Learning Chinese

The Art of the Sky: Exploring the Traditional Kite Making in China's Intangible Cultural Heritage


As we look up at the blue sky, we often see colorful kites soaring high, dancing with the wind, like sprites in the heavens. In China, kites are not just an ancient toy but a symbol of culture. As an important part of China's intangible cultural heritage, the traditional art of kite making embodies the Chinese reverence for nature and their love for life. This article will take you into the world of this ancient art, exploring its history, craftsmanship, and value in modern society.

The Historical Origins of Traditional Kite Making

The history of kites can be traced back over two thousand years in China. It is said that kites were invented by the famous thinker and engineer Mozi and his student Lu Ban. Initially, kites were used for military purposes, such as sending messages and measuring distances. The "Historical Records (Shi Ji) - Biography of Lu Zhonglian and Zou Yang" contains what may be the world's earliest written record of kites: "Lu Ban made a wooden magpie that flew several hundred steps."

By the Song Dynasty, kite making and flying had become an important recreational activity among the common people. Zhou Mi, a Song Dynasty writer, noted in "Dream Pool Essays (Dongjing Meng Hua Lu)" that "During the Qingming festival, people everywhere flew kites." The status of kites in Chinese history was not limited to entertainment; they were also closely linked to traditional festivals. During the Qingming Festival, people flew kites to express their longing for lost loved ones, while during the Dragon Boat Festival, kite flying was believed to have the power to ward off evil and disease. These customs not only show the importance of kites in Chinese culture but also reflect the Chinese reverence for life and nature.


Kite Making in China's Intangible Cultural Heritage List

In 2006, the art of kite making in China was officially inscribed on the national list of intangible cultural heritage. This recognition is not only an affirmation of the value of kite-making skills but also a reflection of the importance placed on their historical and cultural significance. The kite-making artistry in China varies by region, resulting in a variety of unique styles, such as Beijing kites, Tianjin kites, and Weifang kites, each with its own distinctive craftsmanship and cultural characteristics.

The protection and inheritance of kite-making skills have become important issues. With the advance of modernization, traditional handicrafts face many challenges. To protect this treasure, governments at all levels and non-governmental organizations are taking measures, such as organizing kite festivals and kite-making workshops, to attract more attention and participation in the inheritance of kite culture.

The Unique Craftsmanship of Kite Making

Kite making is an art that requires meticulous attention to detail. From the selection of materials to the finished product, each step reflects the craftsman's exquisite skill and pursuit of beauty. Traditional kites are typically made from materials such as bamboo, silk, and paper, each carefully chosen and prepared. The bamboo must be light yet resilient, while the silk and paper need to be both strong and lightweight.


During the crafting process, artisans first create the kite's frame, which often involves shaving and bending bamboo strips into shape. Next, silk or paper is cut and adhered to the frame to form the kite's surface. Finally, craftsmen paint intricate designs on the kite, often incorporating elements rich in traditional Chinese culture, such as dragons, phoenixes, flowers, and birds.

The decoration of kites is also elaborate, using materials like colorful ribbons, small bells, and painted motifs. These decorations not only enhance the kite's visual appeal but also contribute to its stability and performance in the air. Some kites even include whistles that produce pleasant sounds as they fly, adding to the joy of kite flying.

The Contemporary Value and International Influence of Kite Culture

In modern society, kites are no longer just a children's toy; they have become a bridge connecting people with nature, and tradition with modernity. Kite festivals and competitions are popular around the world and serve as important platforms for showcasing Chinese traditional culture and craftsmanship.

As cultural ambassadors, kites have transcended national boundaries and are embraced and cherished by people around the globe. Internationally, Chinese kites, with their unique artistic charm and profound cultural heritage, have won widespread recognition and appreciation. Through international kite festivals and other events, kite culture promotes cultural exchange and fosters understanding and friendship between different countries and peoples.

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