Kites 风筝(feng zheng)

By: Belen Rivas 吕碧兰

Some basic info. (Questions)

  • When and who invented it?
-The earliest kites, which date from the Warring States Period (BCE 475-221) of the Eastern Zhou (BCE 770-221) Dynasty, were made of wood, and were called mu yuan(wooden kite) were invented in China. The person who invented the first prototype of a kite was Lu Ban and Mo Di.


  • What was the reason to invent it?
-Mo Di (468-376 BC), a famous philosopher made an eagle with wood in three years; after his three years of effort he managed to fly it for just one day. The story is that he passed his skills to Lu Ban, who later improved its design and had it fly for 3 days straight. They later used the kites for military purposes like lifting up soldiers to spy or snipe enemies. They also used them to send messages for military operations.


  • How does it work?
-Framing is the binding together the bamboo ribs that will constitute the kite's frame, sometimes movement is incorporated into a kite by adding a tail. Thin strips of bamboo are generally used for ribs, as these are both light, exceptionally strong, and pliable. For the "sail" you can use silk or paper. There is also 2 different types of kites that you can make: rigid (thicker, less pliant ribs) and soft. The rigid kite can fly a high as the eye can see, while the soft one can;t go super high, it is capable of delicate, fluttering movements. Basically it works like a sail and lets the wind lift it up and navigate it.


  • Are there any inventions that were created with the help of the kite?
-Ben Franklin created/discovered electricity with the aid of the kite. He used the kite to fly up in the sky during the storm so that the electricity traveled down the twine to the key.

Ways kites were introduced to Europe: Marco Polo & Research

  • Stories of kites were first brought to Europe by Marco Polo towards the end of the 13th century. Kites were brought back by sailors from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although they were initially regarded as mere curiosities, by the 18th and 19th centuries kites were being used as vehicles for scientific research.
  • Kites were also instrumental in the research of the Wright brothers when developing the first airplane in the late 1800s. Over the next 70 years, many new kite designs were developed, and often patented. These included Eddy's tail-less diamond kite, the tetrahedral kite, the flexible kite, the sled kite, and the para-foil kite, which helped to develop modern hang-gliders.

Why do you think it took centuries for kites to reach Europe?

  • I think it took centuries for kites to reach Europe because China is a very conservative and low-key country. Not only is it low-key, it is also across the world from Europe so it took a while for China's inventions to make it's way around the world. Since it was so long ago and there was not a lot of advanced technology; it takes a lot of time for news of new inventions to spread around the world.

Why don't the Chinese inventors get the credit for their inventions?

I believe that Chinese inventors don't get their credit for their inventions because they started them so long ago and they are not that popular. As time goes by their initial creations get modified and changed so they become forgotten. The modern people forget who created their object and where it came from. Since more well-known and advanced countries/people modify the creation, they tend to get the credit.

What was the most important thing I learned from this lesson?

The most important thing I learned from this lesson was that the kites that we play with today have been around for a very long time. I learned that back then they were used for many useful things but now it is not so popular. It is very important that I learned where this invention originated from so that I can learn to appreciate the place it came from.

What I think about Chinese inventions and their uses today.

I think that the Chinese inventors were very creative and crafty. A lot of the inventions that originated from China have made a huge impact on our world today. In many ways China was very advanced in technology so when their inventions made its way to the rest of the world; it helped modernize our world. Kites back then were used for many things and are now a toy for kids. It is crazy that a simple toy now was used as a military tool back then. This shows us that China and their inventions had helped our world become more advanced and modern.