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Chinese Kites - Modern Artisans Keep an Ancient Craft Alive

China is considered to be one of the locations of the origin of the kite.

As such, it has a long and varied history of kite craftsmanship that endures into modern times. Even though some news stories out of China have lately lamented the use of modern materials (ripstop nylon sail material and carbon fibre framing) instead of the traditional materials (fine silk or good quality paper sail materials and split bamboo framing), it is clear that the intrinsic value of a finely crafted Chinese kite is still highly desired by kite collectors and those who appreciate kite art.

Wang Naixin of Beijing, China is one of a number of incredibly skilled artisans who still produce three-dimensional Chinese kites in traditional ways.

The Toronto Star notes in its Tuesday, May 19, 2009 edition that there is still a demand for such kites, even though they have now become quite pricey (from $50 to $200 US dollars) when they are constructed by a true kite craftsman.

Correspondent Bill Schiller states:

"Wang is a leading exemplar of a craft that is growing ever more rare in the big city: the authentic, whole-made, handmade kite. You can buy assembly-line kites in China by the thousands. But there's no assembly line here: Wang's home and studio is a workshop of one. He builds all his kites from start to finish.

With a closet full of bamboo from Sichuan and a supply of silk from Huzhou in Zhejiang province, Wang is at his work table every morning.

It takes seven days to build a hunting hawk-style kite from start to finish – 21 days or more to craft more complex kites.

He hand-paints each one: birds and beetles, butterflies and fish.

Each kite is a unique object of beauty – and Wang hates to part with them. He will only sell about 10 per year.

"They're so beautiful," he says, sipping tea. "Why would I want to sell them?"

His admiring grey-haired mother sits nearby, drawing thoughtfully on a cigarette. One gets the impression she wouldn't mind.

He recently turned down about $200 for one of his creations."

The Toronto Star article includes a photo of Wang Naixin holding the body of a three dimensional bird kite.  It is well worth reading and provides excellent insight into the type of craftsmanship required in traditional Chinese kite making.

Additional Reading:

  • Jue, David F.  Chinese Kites - How to Make and Fly Them.  Charles E. Tuttle Company. Rutland, VT. 1967.
  • Kuiming, Ha and Yiqi, Ha. (Trans. Kiggell, Ralph). Chinese Artistic Kites. Commercial Press Ltd. Hong Kong, 1990 (North American edition). ISBN: 0-8351-2279-4
  • Chungen, Liu. Chinese Kites.  Foreign Language Press, Beijing. 2001.  ISBN: 7-119-02669-0
  •  ________. Origami Tako and Kite. (In Chinese). ISBN: 4-87051-124-X
Posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 06:27AM by Registered CommenterHifliercanada | CommentsPost a Comment

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