Who Invented The Kite?

Probably Someone From Ancient Asia

Is it possible to know for sure who invented the kite? No it isn't, but most research points to the Asian region - many hundreds of years BC!

While researching other history pages on this site, I got the impression that China was the birth-place of the kite.

However, on re-searching the Web, it seems that the kite idea might have been independently discovered in Malaysia as well.

From these 2 regions, kites spread first to the rest of Asia, then eventually to the rest of the world.




Talking about Asian designs, there are 2 - the Japanese Sode and Rokkaku - of which I have created various versions. These are included in 3 separate series of MBK Kite designs. You can find them in the following resource...

The Big MBK Book Bundle is a collection of downloads - printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.




Interestingly, a few specific names do turn up in ancient Chinese literature. Here's a few, each of whom might have felt that they were the one who invented the kite in China...

  • 5th Century B.C. Possibly the oldest reference to kite-making in literature. A master of joinery named Mu Zi developed a man-lifting kite over a period of 3 years. It was called the Wooden Black Eard Kite. Later, another master of joinery named Lu Ban made another kite to the same design.
  • 4th Century B.C. An engineer called Kungshu Phan created a wooden kite in the shape of a bird that flew continuously for three days.
  • 3rd Century B.C. General Han Hsin of the Han Dynasty flew a kite over the walls of a city during a military campaign.

In addition to these facts gleaned from actual written records, there is also a traditional belief or legend regarding who invented the kite. The story goes that a farmer attached his hat to a string to prevent it blowing away one day, and it managed to lift off and fly for a while. Thus creating the first kite!



But What About Malaysia?

This country doesn't have the same extensive literary records as China, but experts believe that simple leaf kites might have been flown here even earlier than the first wooden and silk kites in China. A very simple concept, but one that apparently works. It's just a large leaf that happens to be the right shape and works nicely as a kite when correctly tethered to a line!

Later, simple fishing kites came into use through many islands near South East Asia and in the Pacific Ocean. These kites were made from leaves or bark, fastened to simple frames of twigs or reeds.

If you're into kiting DIY and also like to keep things simple...

The Big MBK Book Bundle is a collection of downloads - printable PDF files which provide step-by-step instructions for many kites large and small.



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