Yokaichi Giant Kite Festival is held every May in Higashiomi, Shiga, Japan.[1]

A kite is a tethered object with surfaces that react with a fluid (water, air, gas, plasma) to create lift and drag; often the result is flying in air or water of the wing parts of a kite. A kite consists of wings, tethers, and anchors. A kite may be with fixed or moving anchors. There are natural and synthetic kites. Kites have a long and varied history and there are many types of kites that are flown individually and at festivals worldwide.

The necessary lift that sustains the kite in flight is generated when air flows above the kite's surface, producing low pressure above and high pressure below the wings.[2] The interaction with the wind also generates horizontal drag along the direction of the wind. The resultant force vector from the lift and drag force components is opposed by the tension of one or more of the lines or tethers to which the kite is attached.[3] The anchor point of the kite line may be static or moving (e.g., the towing of a kite by a running person, boat, free-falling anchors as in paragliders and fugitive parakites[4][5] or vehicle).[6][7]

The same principles can be used in water[8][9] and experiments have also been made with lighter than air tethered balloons (kytoons)[10]

Kites may be flown for recreation, art or other practical uses. Sport kites can be flown in aerial ballet, sometimes as part of a competition. Power kites are multi-line steerable kites designed to generate large forces which can be used to power activities such as kite surfing, kite landboarding, kite fishing, kite buggying and a new trend snow kiting.


  • History 1
  • Materials 2
  • Practical uses 3
    • Military applications 3.1
    • Science and meteorology 3.2
    • Radio aerials and light beacons 3.3
    • Kite traction 3.4
  • Cultural uses 4
    • Asia 4.1
    • Europe 4.2
    • Polynesia 4.3
    • South America 4.4
  • Popular culture 5
  • General safety issues 6
  • Designs 7
  • Types 8
  • Line materials 9
  • Record 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13


Woodcut print of a kite from John Bate's 1635 book, The Mysteryes of Nature and Art in which the kite is titled How to make fire Drakes

Kites were invented in China,[11] where materials ideal for kite building were readily available: silk fabric for sail material; fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line; and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework.

The kite has been claimed as the invention of the 5th-century BC Chinese philosophers Mozi (also Mo Di) and Lu Ban (also Gongshu Ban). By 549 AD paper kites were certainly being flown, as it was recorded that in that year a paper kite was used as a message for a rescue mission.[12] Ancient and medieval Chinese sources describe kites being used for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military operations.[12] The earliest known Chinese kites were flat (not bowed) and often rectangular. Later, tailless kites incorporated a stabilizing bowline. Kites were decorated with mythological motifs and legendary figures; some were fitted with strings and whistles to make musical sounds while flying.[13][14][15] From China, kites were introduced to Cambodia, India, Japan, Korea and the western world.[12][13][15]

Kite maker from India, image from Travels in India, including Sinde and the Punjab by H. E. Lloyd, 1845

After its introduction into India, the kite further evolved into the fighter kite, known as the patang in India, where thousands are flown every year on festivals such as Makar Sankranti.[16]

Kites were known throughout Polynesia, as far as New Zealand, with the assumption being that the knowledge diffused from China along with the people. Anthropomorphic kites made from cloth and wood were used in religious ceremonies to send prayers to the gods.[17] Polynesian kite traditions are used by anthropologists get an idea of early "primitive" Asian traditions that are believed to have at one time existed in Asia.[18]

Boys flying a kite. Engraving published in Germany in 1828 by Johann Michael Voltz

Kites were late to arrive in Europe, although windsock-like banners were known and used by the Romans. Stories of kites were first brought to Europe by Marco Polo towards the end of the 13th century, and kites were brought back by sailors from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th centuries.[19] Although they were initially regarded as mere curiosities, by the 18th and 19th centuries kites were being used as vehicles for scientific research.[19]

In 1750 [20]

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 parafoil kite, which helped to develop modern hang-gliders.[22] In fact, the period from 1860 to about 1910 became the "golden age of kiting". Kites started to be used for scientific purposes, especially in meteorology, aeronautics, wireless communications and photography; many different designs of man-lifting kite were developed as well as power kites.

The development of mechanically powered airplane diminished interest in kites. World War II saw a limited use of kites for military purposes (see Focke Achgelis Fa 330 for an example). Since then they are used mainly for recreation.


Sparless Styrofoam kites

Designs often emulate flying insects, birds, and other beasts, both real and mythical. The finest Chinese kites are made from split bamboo (usually golden bamboo), covered with silk, and hand painted. On larger kites, clever hinges and latches allow the kite to be disassembled and compactly folded for storage or transport. Cheaper mass-produced kites are often made from printed polyester rather than silk.

Tails are used for some single-line kite designs to keep the kite's nose pointing into the wind. Spinners and spinsocks can be attached to the flying line for visual effect. There are rotating wind socks which spin like a turbine. On large display kites these tails, spinners and spinsocks can be 50 feet (15 m) long or more.

Modern aerobatic kites use two or four lines to allow fine control of the kite's angle to the wind. Traction kites may have an

Kites have been used for human flight, military applications, science and meteorology, photography, lifting radio antennas, generating power, aerodynamics experiments, and much more.

Chinese dragon kite more than one hundred feet long which flew in additional line to de-power the kite and quick-release mechanisms to disengage flyer and kite in an emergency.

Practical uses

Military applications

Kites have been used for military purposes in the past, such as signaling, delivery of munitions, and for observation, both by lifting an observer above the field of battle and by using kite aerial photography.

According to Samguk Sagi, in 637 Kim Yu-sin, a Korean general of Silla rallied his troops to defeat rebels by lofting a kite with a straw man which looked like a burning ball flying to the sky.[23]

Russian chronicles mention Prince Oleg of Novgorod use of kites during the siege of Constantinople in 906: "and he crafted horses and men of paper, armed and gilded, and lifted them into the air over the city; the Greeks saw them and feared".

Kites were also used by Admiral Yi of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) of Korea. During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), Admiral Yi commanded his navy using kites. His kites had specific markings directing his fleet to perform various orders.[24]

One of Cody's "manlifter" kites in 1908

In the modern era the British Army used kites to haul human lookouts into the air for observation purposes, using the kites developed by Samuel Franklin Cody. Barrage kites were used to protect shipping during the Second World War.[25][26] Kites were also used for anti-aircraft target practice.[27] Kites and kytoons were used for lofting communications antenna.[28] Submarines lofted observers in rotary kites.[29]

Science and meteorology

Kites have been used for scientific purposes, such as Benjamin Franklin's famous experiment proving that lightning is electricity. Kites were the precursors to the traditional aircraft, and were instrumental in the development of early flying craft. Alexander Graham Bell experimented with very large man-lifting kites, as did the Wright brothers and Lawrence Hargrave. Kites had a historical role in lifting scientific instruments to measure atmospheric conditions for weather forecasting.

Radio aerials and light beacons

Kites can be used for radio purposes, by kites carrying antennas for MF, LF or VLF-transmitters. This method was used for the reception station of the first transatlantic transmission by Marconi. Captive balloons may be more convenient for such experiments, because kite-carried antennas require a lot of wind, which may be not always possible with heavy equipment and a ground conductor. It must be taken into account during experiments, that a conductor carried by a kite can lead to a high voltage toward ground, which can endanger people and equipment, if suitable precautions (grounding through resistors or a parallel resonant-circuit tuned to transmission frequency) are not taken.

Kites can be used to carry light effects such as lightsticks or battery powered lights.

Kite traction

A quad-line traction kite, commonly used as a power source for kite surfing

Kites can be used to pull people and vehicles downwind. Efficient foil-type kites such as power kites can also be used to sail upwind under the same principles as used by other sailing craft, provided that lateral forces on the ground or in the water are redirected as with the keels, center boards, wheels and ice blades of traditional sailing craft. In the last two decades several kite sailing sports have become popular, such as kite buggying, kite landboarding, kite boating and kite surfing. Snow kiting has also become popular in recent years.

Kite sailing opens several possibilities not available in traditional sailing:

  • Wind speeds are greater at higher altitudes
  • Kites may be manoeuvered dynamically which increases the force available dramatically
  • There is no need for mechanical structures to withstand bending forces; vehicles or hulls can be very light or dispensed with all together

Cultural uses

Launch of ram-air inflated Peter Lynn single-line kite, shaped like an octopus and 90 feet (27 m) long

Kite festivals are a popular form of entertainment throughout the world. They include large local events, traditional festivals which have been held for hundreds of years and major international festivals which bring in kite flyers from Britain to display their unique art kites and demonstrate the latest technical kites.


Making a traditional Wau jala budi kite in Malaysia. The bamboo frame is covered with plain paper and then decorated with multiple layers of shaped paper and foil.

Kite flying is popular in many Asian countries, where it often takes the form of 'kite fighting', in which participants try to snag each other's kites or cut other kites down.[30] Fighter kites are usually small, flat, flattened diamond-shaped kites made of paper and bamboo. Tails are not used on fighter kites so that agility and maneuverability are not compromised.

In Afghanistan, kite flying is a popular game, and is known in Dari as Gudiparan Bazi. Some kite fighters pass their strings through a mixture of ground glass powder and glue, which is legal. The resulting strings are very abrasive and can sever the competitor's strings more easily. The abrasive strings can also injure people. During the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, kite flying was banned, among various other recreations.

In Pakistan, kite flying is often known as Gudi-Bazi or Patang-bazi. Although kite flying is a popular ritual for the celebration of spring festival known as Jashn-e-Baharaan (lit. Spring Festival) or Basant, kites are flown throughout the year. Kite fighting is a very popular pastime all around Pakistan, but mostly in urban centers across the country (especially Lahore). The kite fights are at their highest during the spring celebrations and the fighters enjoy competing with rivals to cut-loose the string of the others kite, this is popularly known as "Paecha". During the spring festival, kite flying competitions are held across the country and the skies are colored with kites. As people cut-loose an opponents kite, shouts of 'wo kata' ring through the air. They reclaim the kites, after they have been cut-loose, by running after them. This is a popular ritual especially among the youth (similar to scenes depicted in the Kite Runner which is based in neighboring Afghanistan). Kites and strings are a big business in the country and many types of strings are used: glass-coated strings, metal strings and tandi. However, kite flying was recently banned in Punjab due to recent motorcyclist deaths caused by glass-coated or metal kite-strings. Kup, Patang, Guda, and Nakhlaoo are some of the kites used. They vary in balance, weight and speed.

In Vietnam, kites are flown without tails. Instead small flutes are attached allowing the wind to "hum" a musical tune. There are other forms of sound-making kites. In Bali, large bows are attached to the front of the kites to make a deep throbbing vibration, and in Malaysia row of gourds with sound-slots are used to create a whistle as the kite flies. Malaysia has also the Kite Museum in Malacca.[31]

A kite shop in Lucknow, India

Kites are very popular in India, with the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Punjab notable for their kite fighting festivals. Highly maneuverable single-string paper and bamboo kites are flown from the rooftops while using line friction in an attempt to cut each other's kite lines, either by letting the cutting line loose at high speed or by pulling the line in a fast and repeated manner. During the Indian spring festival of Makar Sankranti, near the middle of January, millions of people fly kites all over northern India. Kite flying in Hyderabad starts a month before this, but kite flying/fighting is an important part of other celebrations, including Republic Day, Independence Day, Raksha Bandhan, Viswakarma Puja day in late September and Janmashtami. An international kite festival is held every year before Uttarayan for three days in Vadodara, Surat and Ahmedabad.

Weifang, Shandong, China is the kite capital of the world. China is the oldest place, probably with India where kites have been flown since antiquities. It is home to the largest kite museum in the world, the thousands of kites here have a display area of 8100 m2. Weifang hosts an annual international kite festival on the large salt flats south of the city. There are several kite museums in Japan, UK, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA.

In the olden days, Malays in Singapore, kites were used for fishing.[32]

Traditional Japanese kites

In Japan, kite flying is traditionally a children's play in New Year holidays and in the Boys' Festival in May. In some areas, there is a tradition to celebrate a new boy baby with a new kite (祝い凧). There are many kite festivals throughout Japan. The most famous one is "Yōkaichi Giant Kite Festival" in Higashiōmi, Shiga, which started in 1841.[33] The largest kite ever built in the festival is 19m wide x 20.5m high and weights 1500 kg.[34] In the Hamamatsu Kite Festival in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, more than 100 kites are flown in the sky over the Nakatajima Sand Dunes, one of the three largest sand dunes in Japan, which overlooks the Enshunada Sea.[35] The parents who had a new baby prepare a new kite with their baby's name and fly it in the festival.[36] Those kites are traditional ones made from bamboo and paper. The famous kite in Asia is known as kathadi also known as Keerthi vasan, who can fly even for a small wind. A motor is used to pump this kite@kathadi up.


In Greece and Cyprus, flying kites is a tradition for Clean Monday, the first day of Lent. In the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, traditional Bermuda kites are made and flown at Easter, to symbolise Christ's ascent. Bermuda kites hold the world records for altitude and duration. In Fuerteventura a kite festival is usually held on the weekend nearest to 8 November lasting for 3 days.


Māori kite

Polynesian traditional kites are sometimes used at ceremonies and variants of traditional kites for amusement. Older pieces are kept in museums. These are treasured by the people of Polynesia.

South America

In Chile, kites are very popular, especially during Independence Day festivities (September 18).

In Colombia, kites can be seen flown in parks and recreation areas during August which is known to be windy. It is during this month that most people, especially the young ones would fly kites.

  • Kites in many countries
  • History of kites
  • The earliest depiction of kite flying in European literature in a panorama of Ternate (Moluccas) 1600.
  • Mathematics and aeronautical principles of kites.
  • Kitecraft and Kite Tournaments (1914) — A free public domain e-book
  • Kite World Records and Innovations
  • Kite Museum in India
  • Eyes on Brazil

External links

  1. ^ Giant Kite Festival in HigashiomiNHK(video)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Flying High, Down Under
  4. ^
  5. ^ : Ben Balsley,Science in the Field CIRES Scientist in the Field Gathering atmospheric dynamics data using kites. Kites are anchored to boats on the Amazon River employed to sample levels of certain gases in the air.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Kite Fashions: Above, Below, Sideways. Expert kite fliers sometimes tie a flying kite to a tree to have the kite fly for days on end. Archived July 23, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c Needham, Volume 4, Part 1, 127.
  13. ^ a b "Amazing Musical Kites", Cambodia Philately
  14. ^ Kite Flying for Fun and Science, 1907, The New York Times.
  15. ^ a b "Khmer Kites", Sim Sarak and Cheang Yarin, Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Cambodia 2002
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Focke Achgelis Fa 330
  30. ^
  31. ^ Pogadaev, Victor. Svetly Mesyatz-Zmei Kruzhitsa (My Lord Moon Kite) - "Vostochnaya Kollektsia" (Oriental Collection). M.: Russian State Library. N 4 (38), 2009, 129-134. ISSN 1681—7559
  32. ^
  33. ^ 八日市大凧まつりNHK(video)
  34. ^ GIANT KITE FESTIVALS IN JAPAN Japanese Kite Collection
  35. ^ A spectacular festival of some 100 large kites flying over sand dunes. Japan National Tourism Organization
  36. ^ Matsuri NHK
  37. ^ Moore, Brian L. (1995). Cultural Power, Resistance, and Pluralism: Colonial Guyana 1838-1900. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, ISBN 978-0-7735-1354-9
  38. ^ Brereton, Bridget; Yelvington, Kevin A. (1999). The Colonial Caribbean in Transition. University Press of Florida, ISBN 978-0-8130-1696-2
  39. ^ [1] Guyana Chronicle. Archived August 26, 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "A Motorcyclist’s Worst Nightmare – Brazil’s Deadly Kite lines."
  41. ^


Morro Bay, California Kite Festival 2014

See also

Until Bristol Kite Festival 2011 ended, the world record for the biggest-ever kite flown for at least 20 minutes was a kite with lifting area of 10,971 square feet.[41]


A kite in the shape of the flag of Kuwait. The size when flat is 42m x 25m, 1,050 square meters (11,300 sq ft). While flying it becomes a little smaller (about 900 square meters (9,700 sq ft)) due to curvature of the edges when inflated.

Line materials


Train of connected kites
Delta kite


There are safety issues involved in kite-flying, more so with power kites. Kite lines can strike and tangle on electrical power lines, causing power blackouts and running the risk of electrocuting the kite flier. Wet kite lines or wire can act as a conductor for static electricity and lightning when the weather is stormy. Kites with large surface area or powerful lift can lift the people who fly the kite off the ground or drag them into other objects. In urban areas there is usually a ceiling on how high a kite can be flown, to prevent the kite and line infringing on the airspace of helicopters and light aircraft.

A man flying a kite on the beach, a good location for flying as winds travelling across the sea contain few up or down draughts which cause kites to fly erratically

General safety issues

Mary Poppins: Let's Go Fly A Kite scene where The Banks Family sings while flying a kite. Mulan: In the parade scene, you'll see some kites flying.

Popular culture

In Brazil, flying a kite is a very popular leisure activity for children, teenagers and even young adults. Mostly these are boys, and it is overwhelmingly kite fighting a game whose goal is to manoeuvre their own kites to cut the other persons' kites' strings during flight, and followed by kite running where participants race through the streets to steal the free-drifting kites. As in other countries with similar traditions, injuries are common and motorcyclists in particular need to take precautions.[40]

Kite flying originated as a Chinese tradition to mark the beginning of spring. However, because the plantation owners were suspicious of the planter class (read "plantation workers"), the Chinese claimed that it represented the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a clever argument, as at that time, Christians celebrated Easter to the glory of the risen Christ. The Chinese came to Guyana from 1853-1879.[39]
newspaper of May 6, 2007 is more certain: Guyana Chronicle speculate that kite flying was introduced by Chinese indentured immigrants to the then colony of British Guiana in the mid 19th century. The author of an article in the [38](His quotation is from a letter to The Creole newspaper of December 29, 1858). The exact origins of the practice of kite flying (exclusively) at Easter are unclear. Brereton and Yelvington
A very popular Creole pastime was the flying of kites. Easter Monday, a public holiday, was the great kite-flying day on the sea wall in Georgetown and on open lands in villages. Young and old alike, male and female, appeared to be seized by kite-flying mania. Easter 1885 serves as a good example. "The appearance of the sky all over Georgetown, but especially towards the Sea Wall, was very striking, the air being thick with kites of all shapes and sizes, covered with gaily coloured paper, all riding bravely on the strong wind"
describes the phenomenon in the 19th century as follows: [37]