Early Kite Adventures
Though the exact origin of kites are not known, it is known that they were flown in China and the Malay Archipelago two to three thousand years ago. The earliest written accounts of kite flying were the exploits of the Chinese general Han Hsin, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). During one military campaign, the general was said to have had a kite flown above a besieged town to calculate the distance his army would have to tunnel to reach under the city wall. Knowing the exact measurement, his troops surprised their enemy and were victorious.
The popularity of kite flying spread from China along trade routes to Korea, India, and Japan. They arrived in Korea in the period of the Three Kingdoms (4-645 A.D.). During the Silla dynasty (595-673 A.D.), General Gim Yu-sin was ordered to subdue a revolt. However, his troops refused to fight after a large shooting star appeared to have fallen from the sky. It was believed that this was a bad omen. To regain control, the next night the general had a kite carry a fire ball into the sky where it disintegrated. His troops, seeing the shooting star returning to the sky, rallied and routed the rebels.
Kites were brought to Japan around the 7th century by Buddhist monks. They were used as magical figures or “talismans” to avert evil spirits and as invocations for a rich harvest. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), kite flying became very popular when, for the first time, Japanese people below the samurai class could fly kites. The Edo (now Tokyo) government tried unsuccessfully, to discourage this pastime because “too many people became unmindful of their work.”
In 1712, a thief named Kakinoki Kinsuke is said to have used a large kite to carry himself to the top of Nagoya Castle. There, under the cover of darkness, Kinsuke stole the scales from a pair of golden dolphin. The luckless Kinsuke boasted of his exploits and was captured and boiled in oil.
The first lighter-than-air balloon was flown in 1783 and the first powered aircraft took flight in 1903. These are very recent when compared with the age of kites.