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Fly a Kite!
someone has told you to do just that, head for the beach, because offshore
breezes make Xiamen’s Ring Road the perfect place to take part in
this ancient Chinese sport—or art, or science, it’s all of
I marvel at the kite adepts (like the local teenage American devil Caleb
Parette) who with a flick of the wrist send silk dragons skywards, and
then by subtly tugging on one of the control strings, cause it to perform
dizzying acrobatics, diving so close to the ground that the ants and spiders
duck, then soaring back into the skies. Personally, I’m happy just
to get a kite up and keep it up; when my kite descends it’s not
with a kiss but a crash.
like just about everything else on this planet, were invited by the Chinese
some few thousand and fifteen years ago. (Dr. Needham even lists kites
as one of China’s greatest scientific inventions). In 478 B.C. the
Chinese philosopher Mo Zi spent 3 years making a wooden hawk that actually
flew. Poor fellow. Were he around today he could just log on to www.pincle.kite.com
and buy one of the delightful hi-tech fiber-glass spar and silk kites
produced right here in Xiamen! (Pincle’s Phone: 599-. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
In 200 B.C., General Han Xin flew a kite over a city he was besieging,
and then measured the string to see how far he had to tunnel under the
city to take them by surprise. Yet another general tied harps to kites,
flew them over a city, and had his spies in the city spread the rumor
that the waling from the heavens was from the gods, who
were angry and would visit a bitter defeat upon them the next day. They
of course fled in terror, totally unaware the enemy was just stringing
them along (or feeding them a line, etc). This may have helped lead to
the Chinese name of kites: fengzheng (wind musical instrument).
Kites were used to send signals, and very large kites allowed archers
to rain arrows into fortified cities. Marco Polo wrote that Chinese sea
captains tied folks to a kite and sent them aloft. If they stayed up,
smooth sailing was ahead. If they wobbled or crashed, it was a bad omen
and the ship delayed setting out. I’m not sure what they did for
the poor fellow who came down with the kite; if it were me I’d be
pretty up in the air about it.
Chinese also believe that kite-flying can bring good luck—and the
higher the kite, the better the luck. Personally, I’d have to be
higher than a kite to believe that. But lucky or not, kite flying is fun.
For me, it’s like fishing with a sail instead of a hook, surfing
invisible currents seeking to catch evasive updrafts.
Kite flying was banned during the Cultural Revolution, but in cities like
Xiamen the beautiful sport is again catching on. I like watching the kite
masters just outside the Mandarin Seaview (beside the Exhibition Center).
Some of the kites soar so high they look as if they could land in Jinmen.
Now there’s a thought! If Taiwan and the mainland don’t get
the "Three Direct Links" worked out soon, maybe I’ll just
take a kite back to Taiwan…
Last Revised: March
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