History of Chinese Kites 

with Respect to WeiFang, the Capital City of Kites

All texts have been translated to conserve diction and style of the chinese original, thus to illustrate the differences to western style of kiteing

WeiFang is a modern city with many traditions. The city has about a million inhabitants, and is situated in Shandong, the most easterly province of China. WeiFang is known from anciant times, and has a rich history and culture of more than 1000 years. Kites from WeiFang are amongst the best ones in China.

During the Spring-and-Autumn-Period and the period of the Warrying-Empires (475-221 v.u.Z), some 2300 years ago, the first kite had been developed in the province of Shandong. The long literary tradition of China enables us to find more detailed information. Regarding to the book of Han Fei Zi, the master of joinery Mu Zi had been contructing within three years time of developement a man-lifting kite, known as the Wooden-Black-Eard-Kite.  The book of Hong Shu tells us, that some time later the master of joinery  named Lu Ban, had been building another Wooden-Black-Eard-Kite, that had been used as reconaissance device above the ancient city of SongCheng. Both masters originate from the ancient state of Lu, today named Qufu. Qufu is known as the birthplace of Confucius (551-479 b.c.). The city of Qufu has historic grounds of outstanding historical interest, especially the imperial palace of the Confucius family, the grove and parque with the grave of Confucius, and the extent living quarters of the dukes of the Confucius descendants.

When the feast of cold fare begins in the third moon
Excusionists will roam the banks of the BaiLang river
Boys flying kites and girls swingingin the air
In springtime the grass is already very long
And many swallows return

Sprintime poem of Guo Lin (Qing Dynasty)

The first descriptions of kites made with bamboo frames covered by paper and silk, originate from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 o.o t.). Within his book of kites, Yang Cai writes not only about the classic Wooden-Black-Eard-Kite, but also about many other kinds, known and build up to date. Especially the heron or egret kite, a bird kite with wings and legs that are moving like real ones, gives a realistic view of flight. Todays quality kites sometimes are constructed according to these historic patterns mimicing a living birds when landing. Just have a look at the Hunting Eagle Kite with his realistic claws, threedimensional beak and inclined head. When landing this kite, it gives a realistic impression of an eagle preying game.

The kite from WeiFang entered history abaout 1000 years ago and was part of the territory of the ancient Warrying Empires (475-221 o.o.t). The city of WeiFang had been a main centre of kite building since the Ming- and Qing-Dynasties. Since 1984 the city is hosting the largest international kite festival on earth. It usually takes place in the midst of springtime at the end of April. In 1988 WeiFang had been declared the Capital City of Kites. With the foundation of the World Kite Federation (WKF) a year later. With headquarters of the 
World Kite Federation  and its long history of kite building and the largest kite festival on earth, the city of WeiFang is the legitimate global capital and homestead of kites. The clear and vivid history , natural beauty and manyfold variety of kites are illustrated in the reknown and unique WeiFang Kite Museum. Seen from a distance, the roof of this outstanding museum is resembling a centipede. You are cordially invited to visit the treasures of 2300 years of kite history.

WeiFang Drachen-Museum: mit einem Klick zur Webseite
The International Kite Museum in WeiFang, Shandong, China

Kites of WeiFang have cospicious features of art and craft. Motives and forms of kites are unique, outstanding and manifold. You will find animals like all kind of birds, turtles, insects like butterflies and fireflies, frogs, fishes and other kinds of marine life, but also themes and motives of local an general chinese mythology, tradition an religion, fairy tales and legends.  Themes and motive are reflected not only in colour and decoration, but also in form and dimension of kite.

Chinese kites 
may be differentiated into four main categories:
1. Centipede- or Skolopender Kites (derived from ancient Greek centipede)
2. Hard Winged Kites
3. Soft Winged Kites or
4. Flat Kites.

The kite most typical kite for WeiFang is the der 
Centipede with its dragonhead of many variations. The artistic style of painting, colouring and arrangement had been influenced in a decicive way by the classic New Years Paintings of Yangjiabu, the artisan and kite builders village in the outskirts of WeiFang. The art and habit of New Years Paintings is a longstanding cultural tradition in the whole of China. Even today, all but many Chinese houses and doors will get New Years Paintings at lunar New Year with calligraphy, symbols and allegories, promising happiness for the year coming and to keep off evil spirits. WeiFang started the technique of applicating the colourful woodcuts of New Years Paintings on traditional kites. The unique paintings and drawings are giving these kites a very vivid look and appearance. Especially kites representing animals like birds, will give these kites a unique realistic in-flight view. Since generations, kites from WeiFang are to poular in China and abroad. They are exported to all continents. You will find many fine examples of Chinese kites within our webpages.

Everything About Centipede Kites

Motive and theme, living form, fine technique and fresh colours reflect the peculiarity of WeiFang kites and are loved by  friends of kiteflying in China and abroad. This is especially true for the centipede, themost typical kite for WeiFang.

Chinese mythology and religious belief assign the dragon attributes of wisdom and strenghth, promising good luck and wishes The dragon is a symbol for the dignity of the chinese people. Centipedes from WeiFang repraesent their traditional world of believes and ideas.

Centipedes are an extraordinary subject to kite artisans of WeiFang. Working according to patterns of arts and crafts handed down since centuries, they follow a long tradition of a rich heritage of happiness and harmony. With the help of phantasy and imagination the artisans turned  the living creature of the centipede in to the harmonic unity of a centipede kite with its dragonhead and serpentine like body.

The dragonhead already had been subject of kite construcion before. Nevertheless, the combination of dragonhead with the train of kite segments is an invention of the last century made by the master of kite construction of WeiFang.

Additional chapters  in the next few weeks to come:

  • Living design and technique 


  • Colours and harmony of centipede kites

Copyright 2002 ff: Hans P. BoehmeandFeifei Xu