I was given a silk and bamboo bird kite from my older brother's second wife, who was born in China, and lived there most of her life. The box was thin and old, the kite had never been flown. When I asked her about it, she looked sad, then said, "you can read booklet." The booklet is just a folded sheet of paper, with a colourful picture of the bird kite on one page, two and a half pages in Chinese, one blank page, one mostly blank page with Chinese and English information about the exporter and where to send telegrams, no date. The other two and one half pages are in English:
HOW TO FLY KITES
It is suitable to fly a kite in a spacious square under about gentle breeze. Before flying kite you should firstly unfold and spread the kite, fasten all the hoops and inspect whether the two wings are in balance. If unbalance is found, you may make adjustment by slightly curving the bamboo bone especially the bone on top of the wings. Secondly, you have to adjust the top cord to accord with wind force.
1. Trial flying in a short distance is necessary. If the following situations occur, necessary adjustments are required. Shorten upper string of the top cord, if the wind is stronger, or shorten the lower if weak. If the kite is found unsteady in the sky, it is necessary to curve slightly both the bone on the top of the wings and the centre ribs. If the kite flies unsteadily with head downward, shorten with the lower string of the top cord. If the kite does not fly upward, just shorten the upper.
2. Go fly: One person stands facing the wind and lifts the kite, and the player releases 20-30 meters of string. While the player takes the string in hand and running windward, the former releases the kite, when the kite starts to fly, the player stops running to release the string slowly. He can continue to release the string if the kite flies steadily in the sky. He can stop releasing the string when the kite flies up to an optimum height.
KITES- Past and present days
Kite, being Called as "BIRD" in the old days, is a traditional Chinese folk art with a long history. As it can fly in the air, it may be used as an instrument of communication. It can be fixed with a bamboo flute. When the wind goes through the flute, it sounds like zithern. Hence, "Kite" actually means "wind zithern" in China.
Before liberation, this traditional handicraft was on the brink of death. Since liberation, it has gained a new life and achieved a rapid development. Having inherited all the features of famous hands, the Tientsin Kites are quite distinctive in style and design, exquisite in handiwork and attractive in colour.
The Tientsin Kite is of three kinds, namely, silk-made, paper-made and silk/papermade. Specifications available include folding, folding (flat body), unfolding, etc. Designs are mainly of birds and animals. They are characteristic of fine ribs, light weight, easy folding and portability. The craftsmen have inherited the special features of Chinese paintings, wood engravings and Tientsin Yang Liu Ching annual painting to make the design on kites present clear-cut line, bright and fresh colour and vivid appearance. The products enjoy high popularity in various markets.
What we get from kite-flying
Kite-flying is a form of recreation. On holidays or festivals, groups of people can be seen in square, beach or park to fly kites in the air. The kites look colourful and attractive, just like the birds and butterflies hovering in the bright sky. Kite-flying is not only a form of recreation, but also regarded as a sporting activity for physical exercises. It helps one increase sight ability, distinguish wind direction and force.
My father used to make kites, one of my sons does as well. I have a varied collection of kites, none of which came with such detailed information yet no visual diagrams, which would have been helpful assembling this, in regard to the bones and hoops. I read and re-read the booklet, then put together the kite. I found myself unwilling to fly it outdoors, as if it should have been flown in China a lifetime ago by a young girl instead of me in America. So I hung it on a wall where when the wind blows from the right direction, the bird kite lifts and flutters, as if it longs to be free, in a Chinese sky.