Kites Throughout Ages: Not just a Toy


Kite flying is a fun sport for people of all ages, particularly children. It is also a popular attraction during religious and cultural festivals. It has been a part of the world history for thousands of years now. No one can say for sure where it was first originated. However, many believe that kite flying was born in China more than two thousand years ago. There is a popular legend that goes with it.

According to that legend, one day, a farmer in China tied a piece of string to his hat to prevent it from flying off. From this, they say, the idea of kites was born. Pretty soon, kites were being flown for leisure and kite flying became a popular hobby throughout the Chinese empire.

From China, kite flying spread to Japan and Korea. It later spread to India via the Mughal Emperors. The traveller Marco Polo introduced kites to Europe when he brought them back to his home-country Italy from his famous travels to China and India.

Throughout history, kites have been put to all kinds of uses besides being used for entertainment purposes. They have been used as military weapons, worshipped as part of religious rituals, and also used in scientific experiments and put to all sorts of practical uses.

Kites as Military Weapon:

The first known use of kites as a military weapon was made about 2000 years back in China. The Chinese general Han Hsin of the Han dynasty was planning to attack a city guarded by walls and his plan was to dig a tunnel under the city and penetrate it from underground. He sent a kite flying into the air over the walls of the city to calculate how far his men would have to tunnel to penetrate the city from underground without facing the enemy defences.

Another account of kites being used for a military cause was during the Silla dynasty in Korea around the year 600 AD. General Gim Yu-sin was ordered to stop a rebellion that had been taking place. But Yu-Sin’s troops refused to fight because they had seen a shooting star fall from the sky, and they thought the shooting star was a bad omen. So Yu-sin used a kite to carry a fireball into the sky. The troops saw the fireball and they thought it was the shooting star returning to the heavens. After seeing this, they believed that the bad omen that had come to them had gone. So they fought the rebels with full determination and indomitable courage and successfully defeated them, thus subduing the revolt.

Military uses of kites can also be found in the 20th century. During the First World War, kites were used for spying on enemies by the US, the Soviets, Germany, France, England and Italy. But the invention of air planes reduced the usage of kites for surveillance purposes, although they were still used in wars in other ways. For example, during the Second World War, pilots lost at sea would raise the Gibson-Girl Box kite so that others at sea would find and rescue them.

Kites in Scientific Experiments:

Until the eighteen hundreds, European scientists considered kites as mere children’s toys. But in the 19th century, they started realising kites’ potential and hence started using them in scientific experiments. In 1749, a train of kites was used in meteorological experimentation to measure the temperature of the atmosphere at different altitudes. A few years later, Benjamin Franklin demonstrated the electrical nature of lightning by flying a specially designed kite in a thunderstorm.

Kites to avoid taxes:

In the year 1822 AD in Great Britain, a Bristol schoolmaster George Pocock made the strangest use of kites ever recorded in history. At that time, road taxes were put on carriages on the number of horses they used for travelling. So, Pocock attached two kites to his carriage to carry it at high speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. Because of this, he was able to travel through the streets very swiftly without paying any road taxes.

Kites to steal:

Kites were also used for attempting thievery. About 200 years ago, there was a famous Japanese robber named Kakinoki Kinsuke who used a man-lifting kite to lift himself up to castles and rob statues made of gold. He was later captured and hanged to death.

Current day Kites:

In the last few decades, there has been a great change and advancements in the kite industry. Due to developments made in science and technology, there came kites with much better capability and much more attractive designs than before. Because of these innovations, a new sport of kite flying has emerged and sponsored kite flying competitions are now held in many countries around the world. Kite innovations have also led to modern hang-gliders and parachutes.