26 Apr

History of Kites

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The History of Kites

It is all too easy to think of kites as a modern invention – after all they are pretty high tech these days, with complex materials used to keep them both light and strong. But kites are actually rich in history, and have had all sorts of uses throughout time.

A lot of the history of kites is hidden in the depths of time, records lost and so our understanding is incomplete. But even just taking into account what we know about kites there is a tremendous wealth of history to be considered.

Early Kites

Where kites first originated is not known. Some consider the birthplace to be China, after all it did have all the required materials easy to hand (silk and bamboo), and a history of innovation. But others suggest that the origins of the kite lay in Polynesia where they were used as tools to help fishing – literally dangling a bait just above the water to look like a small flying fish, attracting needle fish to the lure and capturing them.

Whatever the origins we are unlikely to be able to tell which came first, but we do know that in both regions the kite was widely used by the populace and provided useful and decorative purposes. We also know that kites are roughly 3000 years old – like we said, a long history!


In China the use of kites was developed further. They used them as decoration in all sorts of festivals and celebrations, often adorned with religious and mythical paintings and designs to help create a sense of visual wonder. They were often fitted with air controlled musical instruments to add further to the spectacle.

To this day kites are used for decorative purposes as well as for function or enjoyment – some truly beautiful designs can be found all over the world.


There is an especially strong history of kites being used in science. One of the most famous examples was Benjamin Franklin devising an experiment to fly a kite to demonstrate electricity in the atmosphere when storms were forming.

But that is far from a limited example, kites have been used in the 19th and 20th centuries to help with anything from meteorology (Alexander Wilson used them to measure temperatures at different heights, for example) to allowing photo’s to be taken (later used in wars to help get aerial photo’s of the enemies position).

Further back, in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci used kites in a number of experiments, from designing flying craft to researching air currents and weather systems.

Children’s Toys
Of course it is not just decoration and works of import that have had the pleasure of the kite through history – they have also been used as children’s toys throughout time. 19th century especially saw them used by a wide range of people throughout Europe give their children kites for enjoyment purposes.

Kites really have been one used by a huge range of people for a massive range of purposes throughout their 3000 years – and there is no reason to think that they will be fading away any time soon, considering there is now a competitive sport involving kite flying.

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