History of Kites

Introduction to the History of Kites

Kite flying is an activity that is appreciated by both the young and old. Of course, childhood memories often include a parent and child building a kite together and testing out their creation in the field. This experience is often successful in building strong family relationships and dreams of any child inspiring a young individual to dream and make his or her dream happen. However, is everybody knowledgeable about the humble beginnings of the kite? It may be a mere toy to some or an inspiration to others, but undoubtedly, the kite’s history is something all of us should try to be familiar with so we can tell our children something more about this favorite childhood toy.

Asian Beginnings

Kites were believed to have been used in Ancient China almost 3,000 years ago. Light materials such as paper, bamboo sticks, and silk strings were abundant in China so many inventors found a means to make a light object (called “kite” in the future) fly. It is believed that the Chinese philosophers Lu Ban and Mozi are the actual inventors of the first kite flown in 5 BC. From then on, kites have served numerous purposes in measuring distances, observing the wind, making signals, communicating during military operations, and even sending messages in rescue missions. The flat Chinese kites, aside from serving practical uses, were also pleasing sights to the eye with their intricate decorations. Other Asian countries known to have used the kite during those times were India and Indonesia.

Arrival in Europe

Marco Polo, in one of his numerous trips to Cathay (Ancient China) in the 13th century, discovered this interesting man-made flying machine. He told stories about this flying machine to Europeans when he went back, but it was only during the 16th and 17th centuries when traders from Japan and Malaysia brought kites into the continent. Primarily regarded as a toy, the Europeans began to consider the kite as a good tool for astronomical scientific (and military) research in the 18th century.

Evolution of Use

Since the 5th BC, the use of the kite has evolved from being a simple toy to an instrument used for numerous purposes. For instance, legend tells that Benjamin Franklin used a kite to prove that lightning is electricity. The golden age of flying kites, sometime between 1860 and 1910, was a time when the kite was used for scientific purposes. Kites were used in the fields of aeronautics, meteorology, wireless communications, as well as manned “power kites”. As technology further developed, airplanes and satellites replaced the use of kites.

At Present

At present, kites are no longer used during military operations and scientific research. However, kites can still be found in abundance in numerous toy stores all over the globe. Although kites may have been one of the most advanced telecommunication and aerial navigation equipment, it now serves its basic use for recreational purposes. However, in this time when pollution, expensive equipment, and costly fuel are impeding technological progress, we may expect some researchers to turn back to this basic flying equipment. Who knows how the kite can further evolve; after all, flying a man-made object was once an impossible feat, right?

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