The History of Chinese Kites
with Respect to WeiFang, the Capital City of Kites
A Specific Overview on Kite Culture
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' (墨子, MoZi) had been contructing within three years time of developement a man-lifting kite, known as the Wooden-Black-Eared-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-Eared-Kite, that had been used as reconaissance device over the sky of 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.
Lu Ban's work is relatively well described. There are many classic books that mention him to be the sole inventor of the kiten. Literature about MoZi is rather sparse. Therefore, mostly Lu Ban is described in modern literature as the inventor of the kite. In addition, Lu Ban is the Daoist patron saint of various trades, and there are various Lu Ban shrines throughout Southeast Asia. A small selection can be found under the following link.
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-Eared-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 on game.
Some kite builders started attaching bamboo stripes to kites. When the kites were high in the air, these bamboo stripes vibrated and soundup in the sky were reminiscent of a 'Zheng Zither' (a stringed instrument). Since then, this has been the most popular Chinese name for kites as flying objects. The term 'FengZheng' (wind 'Zheng' or wind zither) refers to this. Kites with sound-producing instruments can also be found in the kite exhibition on this website (cf. HuaShu or LingZhi with string instruments, and kites with calabash flutes).
Chinese names for 'kites'
WeiFang International Kite Festival
WeiFang belonged to the sphere of influence of the historical 'Warring States'. The city had already developed into the most important place of kite production in China during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The World's Largest International Kite Festival has been held in WeiFang every springtime since 1984. In 1988 Weifang was declared the Kite Capital of the World. The following year the World Kite Federation (International Kite Federation, IKF) was founded. The kite festival always takes place on the third weekend in April. In 2020 it was canceled due to the corona pandemic.
The first festivals beginning from 1984 into the 1990s took place in the urban area. From 2000 until 2015 it took place in FuYanShan from 2000 to 2015. Nowadays the festival , is held in the BinHai Resort. BinHai (滨海, literally: coast on the sea) is located directly on the BoHai sea, the adjacent gulf north of the ShanDong Peninsula. BoHai has large beaches and large open spaces. In the meantime, a new kite sport field has been opened. directly situated on the coast line. The vast open spaces are ideal for the Largest Kite Festival in the World, particularly with regard to the presented kites becoming larger and larger, a tendency to be noticed at large kite festivals in general. Most of these big ones are inflatable kites. They are in growing numbers conquering the sky above the airfields. This is quite understandable, since the public often has to watch from a far distance for safety reasons, but the audience should also be shown something spectacular. BinHai has a kite surfing center for international competitions located directly on the beach. Kite surfing has also become an established Olympic sport. Many other interesting details can be found on the separate Kite Festival web page.
All competitions take place under the strict eyes of the national and international referees according to sophisticated rules. Line angle and even height measurements are done with professional telemetric equipment. Occasionally there is a parade through the city of WeiFang during the day or at night. Usually there is an award ceremony, and in the evening there is often a big gala performance or another big reception. Many other interesting festival details on kites and kite competitions are to be seen on the separate page for
Museums and other kite-related institutions
Weifang Kite Museum
WeiFang City Museum
WeiFang's kites have striking artistic peculiarities. The themes and forms of the kites are distinctive, unique and extremely versatile. For example, birds and other animals, flowers, fishes, butterflies and other insects, marine animals, but also topics from folk mythology and religion, folk tales, fairy tales and legends are presented. These themes are reflected in the painting, but also in the actual shape of the kite itself. "The Four Skills of Kite Building" are deepened on a separate page.
Chinese kites can be divided into four categories:
Kite Builders Villages - Rich in Tradition
WangJiaZhuangZiNew Year's Pictures
New Year's painting is part of a culture that is cultivated throughout China. Topics are mostly about auspicious New Year's customs. Starting in the course of the lunar New Year or "Spring Festival", Chinese front doors and entrancesare adorned with asupicious slogans and pictures, just to keep evil spirits away, and make sure, that te coming New Year will be a happy one. WeiFang was and is famous for these kinds of colorful pictures and drawings. WeiFang kite builder were the first ones to apply these colourful woodblock prints on kites. Applied to flying kites, the paintings give these kites a unique and vivid look, and results in a lifelike flight picture, especially when the kite represents animals and beasts. WeiFang kites have been popular at home and abroad for generations, and are therefore exported all over the world.
Centipede Kites as a Typical Representative of WeiFang Kites
In Chinese traditional folk belief, the mytological dragon is the symbol of wisdom and strength. He promises luck and blessing, and it's a symbol of the dignity of the Chinese people. The Centipede from WeiFang represents the traditional realms of popular beliefs and imagination..
The Centipede kite is a special topic in the Chinese world of the arts. WeiFang's kite artists work according to a heritage that has been handed down for centuries and thus follows a long tradition of happiness and harmony. With a lot of imagination, they have transformed the living millipede into the artificial Centipede that forms a harmonious unity with a dragon's head and millipede body.
The dragon's head was a topic in kite building for quite some time. The combination of this dragon head with the multiple kite-disc chain is an invention of modern times invented in WeiFang. Therefore it has to be said, that the Centipede Kite was introduced into kite art by the people of WeiFang.
Located in the small town of QingZhou in the west of WeiFang County, is the Cloud Gate Mountain (YunMen Shan, 云 门 山). YunMenShan is now a landscape park, geo park and history park of national importance. The 'Heavenly Emperor Temple' (HaoTian Gong 昊天 宫) is on the slopes of YunMenShan. In a hall of this Daoist shrine is a wall painting of the Heavenly Jade Fairy, She is portrayed with several children, some of them playing kites. The history, landscape and nature park is worth a trip from WeiFang, and in addition to the picturesqe view from YunMenShan into the wide plain of WeiFang, the park offers many other scenic vistas. More about this on the corresponding web page.