Who invented the kite? What is the history of the kite?

The most fanciful versions are lent to him, like this cruel game which consisted in making fly a large insect, the lucane, attached by the paw with a sewing thread. ‘The synonymic link is etymologically improper with the insect Lucane’. The origin of the word kite is complex, it is the result of a slow declination of symbols, sounds and regional languages transmitted orally for nearly 20 centuries and which resulted in this word so foreign to the flying object. . ‘It should be noted that the two definitions are distinctly separate, therefore of different origins. The etymological reference is vague. According to the etymological dictionary of the French language, the word Kite comes from the Latin Ercum volsi or arcum volante, then from the form Cercum volante which means flying arc.

KITE: Extraordinary flying object of diversity as much by its forms, its uses but also by the names which have been given to it through the centuries. The French word kite is unique in its etymology to designate this ancient object.


According to historians, it flew for the first time in China, a country where silk and bamboo, generally used for the construction of kites, were produced in abundance. However, the first kites made from plants such as banana leaves were also used by the Mahori tribes. The geographical origin of the kites and their exact dating cannot be confirmed with precision to this day. Recent finds on Muna Island have uncovered cave paintings dating from 5-9000 BC, depicting a man flying a traditional Mahori kite.

Writings confirm that four centuries BC, Chinese engineer KUNGSHU Phan flew a wooden bird for more than three days. But if the old traces of the existence of kites come from the East, there is no doubt that several other civilizations have discovered them, apart from China.

The Malays , for example, probably invented, without outside influence, the kite and more particularly the ‘flying fishing rod’; that is to say a kite made of large leaves of bamboo and sides of banana leaves to which is attached a fishing line and a spider web bait. Still used today, this technique allows for a very long range. and surprise certain species of fish.

Over the centuries, kites have traveled in the luggage of merchants and sometimes even Buddhist monks, only to find themselves scattered throughout Asia, across the Pacific Rim, to northern Africa, and then to Europe. Several peoples of South America have also developed a ‘kite-flying’ tradition, but it is impossible to say whether or not they were influenced by other cultures.

As for North America , it seems that it had to wait for the arrival of the first settlers before being affected by the sting of the kite.

In several countries of the East , the kite holds an important place in the daily, religious and cultural life of the people. The roles it plays are very varied since it can be used just as well to celebrate fertility or to evoke Happiness or to serve as a scarecrow.

In the East , the kite is not a hobby but an art which is passed on from generation to generation. Made from the same materials for centuries (bamboo, cypress, silk, tissue or rice paper, large tree leaves, etc.), these kites bear witness to history by their shapes and the drawings painted on them. , myths, lifestyle or traditions of those who make them fly. It is therefore normal that each country and sometimes each region of the same country (like Japan) has created its own kites.

Many have been inspired by butterflies, birds, insects, dragons and mythological characters to build kites rich in a multitude of colors and details. Over the centuries, a large number of geometric shapes have also been exploited: the circle, the rhombus, the rectangle, the pentagon, the hexagon, the arc of a circle, etc.

Japan is distinguished by its wide variety of kites. Although the kite probably did not appear there until the 6th century, it was quickly that each of the regions of this country developed models of kites that were unique in their shapes or patterns. These motifs, warriors, mythical characters or Japanese theater, symbols (like that of the turtle which represents longevity) have been tirelessly painted, without ever being modified, for hundreds of years.

Among all the traditional uses of the kite, one that stands out is the ‘Fête des Garçons’. Every 5th day of the 5th month of the year, large kites are launched in the skies of several provinces to celebrate the birth of male children. Colorful windsocks in the shape of carp are worn at the end of sticks. In Japan, carps are a symbol of fertility, fighting spirit, progress of the Sons of the River of Life.

Kite fightsare also very popular in Asia and Afghanistan. The kites used, combat kites, are small, very fast, and maneuverable despite a single line coated with glue and looted glass (the razor-sharp manjha). The confrontation consists of trying to cut the string of the opponent’s kite. Another very popular type of fighting is Rokkaku. This time, the fighters are of size, 3.30 meters, and must be maneuvered by several kites. The aim of the competition is to unbalance and send the opponent’s kite to the ground. The Fighting Great Rokkakus hails from the towns of Sanjo and Shirone. When the respective teams compete against each other,

In Korea, it is since the 7th century that kite competitions have been held during the first two weeks of the lunar year. The most typical kite used in these games is a rectangular shaped combat kite with a circle shaped hole in the middle. To close the party, kites are released in the sky with the inscription: ‘May all the worries of the past year go away with this kite’. Malaysia also has a long ‘kite-flying’ history. The Wan Bulan or moon kite (because of its crescent moon shaped lower part) was invented here several hundred years ago and has remained Malaysia’s most popular kite ever since. As for the ‘Malay’, a kite with the classic trapeze shape, it was invented long before the ‘Eddy’ was in America,

In Bali , (island of Indonesia), a Hindu belief is that the kite is the favorite sport of the gods. The first flight of each competition is therefore always consecrated by a priest during a grand ceremony. The construction of kites in Bali is closely linked to Hindu practice. The designs that appear on the kites are almost all taken from the story of Ramayane which tells the life of gods, kings and a princess who was taken. On this island, the kites also have practical functions: in the shape of birds of prey, the peasants fly them above the rice fields to keep starlings away.

In Thailand, the kite is a ‘royal’ activity. Centuries ago, royal families loved the practice of kites so much that they neglected ‘affairs of state’. In 1358 was therefore issued an ordinance prohibiting the practice of this sport in the royal palace and its surroundings! Kite fights are very popular and different in Thailand as male (Chulas) and female (Pak Paos) kites compete there. The fight takes place on a land divided in two; on one side the Pak Paos and on the other, the Chulas. The latter must invade the land of the Pak Paos and bring them back to their camp. Far from being passive, the Pak Paos for their part try to destabilize the Chulas and send them to the ground. Since the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910), these fights, endowed with very old and very precise rules, have become a national sport. Today, an ambassador team made up of five members participates in numerous major festivals to promote the nobility of their art throughout the world.



-Discovery in the archipelago of Malaysia (Mesolithic period -5 to -9000 years) of elliptical cave paintings / kites ‘Manu’ (unique shape in the world) coming from the migration of the Maoris from New Zealand to Melanesia and Polynesia kites used for garfish fishing. -Japan 9th century Tame tomo escapes his son from an island.

-Greece -400/500 Archytas of Taranto mechanical dove

-China -300/400 Milan of wood to announce the wind (engineer Kungshu)

-Korea -200 General Chugnugong uses coded messages against the Japanese invader. China -200 General Han-sin: communication between the Wei yang yang palace and the reinforcement troops.

-Kakinkoki Kinsuque: tries to steal the golden dolphins from Nagoya Castle it will be scalded.

-China 1295 voyage of Marco polo: human thefts and prediction of trips and good or bad omens.

-Europe 1300 scientific and military uses England and France.

-Roger Bacon develops the theory of air lift, the era of the scientific kite has just begun.


-3rd fun activity of humanity (UNESCO). Over a billion practitioners.

-Asia: cultural heritage. Exorcist powers, protection against evil spirits, harvest prediction. Musical kites, bearers of offerings, lanterns, firecrackers and fireworks.

-Symbolics: China: Dragon = Emperor and occult forces. Phoenix = empress. Bat = good omen and prosperity, red = color of happiness, swallow = marital happiness, carp = courage, longevity and fertility. The frog announces the rain and the turtle represents the sky and invokes the continuity of family ties. Lotus = purity and immortality and the peony: beauty and richness.

-Japan: Ideograms the CV is a team sport and fighting is part of the tradition. The oval Wan-wan CV of more than 24m in diameter. + One ton. The Nagasaki Hata and its cutting wire coated with crushed glass. O-dakos, Eddo and Rokkakus team fights in Shirone and Hamamatsu during the boys’ party on the 5th day of the 5th month (form of baptism and contact with the gods). Traditional CVs like the Bekkako (clown who sticks out his tongue) and the Sode in the form of a kimono.

  • In Cambodia in November night flight with musical CVs.

-In Thailand the male Chulas must catch the female Pakpaos.

-Malaysia: National and airline emblem. Diamond-shaped and pear-shaped descendants of the Manu (Maori). Vibrant and richly decorated elliptical, Wau, arched CVs. Wau bulan (moon CV), Wau Kuching (cat CV), Wau Jalabudi (female CV) and the Wau daun (sheet CV).

-South Pacific: The fall of the CV designates the land to be allocated. and the mastery of flight demonstrates the wisdom and supremacy of the pilot.

-Indonesia: Combats of layang layang small diamonds of tissue paper and bamboo. The Janggan is the Traditional Balinese CV, a sort of giant red / yellow / white and black snake.

-Korea: The pang Pae takes away the calligraphy of the names and dates of birth of the boys and the hopes and sorrows of the moment. The rope is cut, the CV serves as a shield against misfortune.

-India in Amédabad mid January (return of the sun) Patang fight equipped with the cutting wire “manjha”. Hindus and Muslims make peace on the occasion of the great fight of the patangs.

-Brazil: The pipa is a pantagon-shaped combat CV. Päpier and stems of palm trees. It is the tail of the Cv which is abrasive (cerol). Dangerous and illegal game in the faveles, serves as an indicator to warn the dealers (red CV = police raid).

  • Antilles fighting Cv equipped with razor blades.

-Colombia: hexagon and octagons with long tails.

-Martinique: Easter fights on the ascent. The “cod” in the shape of a diamond or trapezoids made of paper and chopsticks of coconut palms. Children fly with simple leaves called “Unhappy”.

-Guatemala. The Indians of Santiago and Sacatepequez celebrate the dead in cemeteries on All Saints Day. Giant decagons of more than 10 m in diameter with Mayan decorations.

-14th century (middle age) the Tartars and the Arabs introduce the CV in Europe. It is intended to sow terror (dragons and flying snakes).

The kite, an experimentation tool

-13th century under the Mongol emperor Kubilay Khan grandson of Genghis Khan drunkards were stolen from huge CVs. Whether or not the boat left depended on their survival.

-18 th century an English hunter cut down game with CVs in the shape of kites.

-1730 in Paris the CVs fly above the roofs day and night with lanterns and cages containing cats. Prohibition in 1736.

-In the South Pacific we still fish for Orphia with CVs. In Florida we fish for swordfish.

-In the Samoan Islands the Cv is used to tow canoes.

-1970 the CV was used to transmit mail from a lighthouse.

-17th century materials hoisted by Cv for the construction of the Japanese temple Zojo-Ji ..

-18th century: meteorology.

-19th century beginning of aeronautical research thanks to the CV.

-1888 beginnings of aerophotography

-1900 the CV equips the liferaft to report the castaway and carry a radio antenna.

-1948 Françis Rogallo, engineer at NASA, invents the plane delta thanks to the experimentation of several types of CV which adapt to the winds.

-1950: Domina Jalbert invents the parafoil which will serve as a technological basis for precision parachuting and paragliding. Jalbert invents the Kytoon, half balloon, half kite which will be used by Canadian foresters. Today’s flexifoil and marine wings are an evolution of Jalbert’s work and gave birth to Kite sports. William Allison invents the sled, an ultra simple flexible CV.

-1960/1970, developers like the American Don Talbor and the Englishman Peter Powell will be inspired by the works of Eddy and Rogallo to invent the acrobatic CV with 2 and 4 lines.

-1980 The Legaignoux brothers invent the Wipi cat sail and make the CV unsinkable. Kite surfing was born

-1995 Nicole Van de Kerchove crosses the Atlantic from Guadeloupe to Ténériffe in 28 days without masts or rigging but with 8 HP developed by Sylvain Bertommé.

Records and performances

-Altitude by train: 9779 m in Lindberg (Germany) in 1954.

-Altitude, 1 CV = 5900 m in 1903 by Rotch and Teisserenc de B.

-Duration: USA 180h and 17mn

-Large: Trilobite Peter Lynn 1500 m2

-Long: 1989 France the Craken 1034.45 m

-Train: Japan 11 284

  • Domestic flight: USA 39h 53 mn

-Speed ​​in acrobatic: USA 193 km / h

-Arche: 2000 Gilles Tarnier France 2000 CV and 1100 m.


The kite and aviation

-1808: Sir Georges Caylay (England) glider with fixed wings against the beaten wings. 1853 tests of the “airplane”

-1856: France Brittany. Jean Marie le Bris. Flight of the Albatross (15m) with horse-drawn carriage and involuntary test pilot coachman.

-1870: France, Clément Ader: Hollow profile and lift. 1890 flight of the Eole 50 m at 20cm from the ground.

-1889: Germany Otto Lilienthal, 2000 flights with bamboo and cotton prototypes: “succeed in gliding before motorizing”

-1894: Alexander Graham Bell: tetrahedron (1300 cells), Selfridge human flight towed by a boat (the Signet).

-1898: France Charles and Gabriel neighbor

-1989 at Berck test flights with Archdéacon and Louis Blériot.

-1899: USA Wilburg and Orville Wright and engine manufacturer Charles Taylor = 12 second flight with the Flyer.

-1905 Ernest Archdéacon and Chanute take off with the “airplane” held like a CV.

-1904: Australia, Sir Laurence Hargrave, multiplane and CV boxes, he donates his inventions to aeronautical research.

-1905: France Lartigue and Santos Dumont advance the forms and the use of materials in nascent aeronautics.

The kite and aerophotography

-1880: France Jobert aerial photography project (not serious?)

-1888: France Labruguière in the Tarn, Arthur Batut photo 127 m from the farm of Enlaure.

-1889: France: Emile Wenz Chaponnière, photos on glass of Berck at 250m.

-1896: USA William Eddy 400m with CV trains

-1897: Russia, Thiélé Panoramic photo with 6 lenses. Topographic surveys for transbaikalian railway route.

-1905: USA and Belgium the aero-photography becomes a profession with René Desclée, Georges Lawrence and Armand Godérus.

-1965: world: Michel Dusariez, Goffroy de Beaufort create the KAPWA. Serge Nègre Arctic expeditions JL Etienne aerophotography museum in Labruguière

The kite today

-Composite materials, technical fabrics such as spinnacker, dacron, mylar, carbon, static and very resistant threads such as kevlar, dyneema, etc. are used in the composition of sports kites and air-traction gliding.

-The image of the kite is evolving with the help of the French free flight federation. The kite is now recognized as a support for artistic creation, as a support for educational and sports projects.

-The kite has also become an event support with international meetings attracting tens of thousands of spectators. The big festivals in France are Berck-sur-mer, Dieppe, Marseille…

-The kite has also become a vector of communication widely used in advertising creation, publishing and cinema.

-The techniques relating to aerodynamics are constantly evolving and today allow sporting practices and unexpected challenges with this thousand-year-old object: air-powered gliding on water, on land and on snow, the kite boat, the pulling sled kayaks, yachts, container ship and iceberg pulling projects, power stations powered by kite wings…

  • since 1996: the Free Flight Federation has integrated all kite disciplines (traditional and sports). The kite has become a real educational tool with the ‘Educ’en ciel’ and ‘Hand’Icare’ projects. At the request of the sports ministry, a state certificate; the BP JEPS sports for all and leisure for all audiences with ‘kite’ certification has been set up. The CV becomes a profession in France with its instructors and its kite and kite schools.


Static or single-line kites

The kites fighters

Acrobatic kites

Aerophotographic kites

Line animations


Static or single-line kites family

Flat kites

Dihedral kites

Soft kites

Cellular kites

Kites type foils and parafoils

Asymmetric kites

‘Unclassifiable’ plastic creation kites

Family of fighters

Indonesian paper and bamboo kites with cutting wire (manjha)

Afghan paper and bamboo kites equipped with cutting blades

Japanese kites known as Rokkakus

Acrobatic family

2-line delta type pilotable kites

4-line ‘revolution’ type pilotable kites

2 or 4 line controllable non-towing wing kites

Aerophotographic family

Kites carrying film or digital photography equipment. The most used types of kites are delta type monofives, Rokkakus, parafoils.

The wire animations

They are accessories arranged on the line of the kite or on the kite itself in order to achieve a visual or sound effect. The kites can also be arranged in trains or arches along the same wire.

Some examples of thread animation:

Shuttles (postilions, messengers, widths, etc.)

Kite trains

Kite arches

The flying frescoes

Beach dogs

Windsocks and bowls

The garlands

The banners and flags

Vibrators and whistles

KITE PRACTICES and uses of the kite support

With single-line kites:

Fun flights, artistic and plastic creation, educational activities, transmission of images, meetings, festivals, competition, aero-photography, animation, communication, education and pedagogy, rehabilitation, scientific research …

With fighting kites

Friendly fights, competitions, team games, betting and gambling

With acrobatic kites

The fun and friendly flight, The game, sports disciplines, regional, national and international competition in the disciplines of ‘precision’, ‘ballet’, ‘individual’, ‘teams’, ‘freestyle (tricks)’…

With aerophotographic kites

Unusual shooting of a fun, technical or artistic nature, scientific aerial photography for agronomic or archaeological research, professional photography for geographic and tourist reporting, meetings, exchanges and festivals.

With the animation of threads

Parachuting of objects and sweets, children’s entertainment, kite festivals, collective projects, artistic creation, games, event decoration, aerial communication, wind music

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