Kite Flying in China

WHEN days are spring and nights are still winter with occasional strong winds blowing, it is an ideal time for kite flying. What a great delight to go down the Street of Kites to pick your heart’s desire!

Perhaps, sir, you would like this giant butterfly? It is strong; it balances well, too. See how sensitive its antennæ are? Or perhaps, madam, this beautifully gowned Goddess of the Moon? She is lifesize, and flies so daintily. Yes, sir, this warrior rides well with the wind. Oh yes, this centipede climbs beautifully. It has one hundred legs. This hawk, maybe, sir? It is fully six feet tall and mightier than the live ones. Perhaps the little master likes this turtle with its long tail? Or some nice fish? No? A bigger one? Yes, sir, this hawk is really a good choice. I spent three days on it. It has perfect balance. Yes, yes, we have bows to go with the kite, and string too, thousands of yards of it.

Perhaps that very day is a windy day! Then you go out to a great open space which in the country might be your own garden or even your back yard. You look for a high place. If there is no convenient ‘molehill’ in sight, the roof of the house serves just as well for the smaller specimens. One end of the string is firmly attached to the kite, the other is wound on a strong stick, easy to unwind or to rewind. The kite is taken to the high place, held with its back directly against the current of the wind. When both ends are ready, up goes the kite from a generous upward thrust. The person holding the string quickly manipulates it with great skill. Under experienced guidance, the kite never fails to rise.

In five minutes our hawk is soaring in the sky, bowing to a gentleman or two, flattering this lady and that, but positively ignoring the numerous butterflies and insects that people the sky. As he mounts higher and higher, the bow strung across his back begins to sing. He joins in the heavenly chorus and dances with pure delight. What a gay masquerade!

Now you tie the end of the string to a strong tree. Take great care to make it fast, lest by chance some child be carried away by this mighty force. You fold your arms and tell your neighbor why your impudent hawk is far superior to his puny gold fish! Then the sun goes down. The ladies and gentlemen slowly descend, followed by the less dignified members of the party. It is time for supper. But our hawk refuses to be just a good fellow. He is a night bird as well.

You can no longer see his wild frolics, but you can still hear him playing his bow. He is doing a solo now and enjoying it. Then, hurry! Bring the lanterns! Seven will do. Light the candles. Pull the hawk halfway down. Tie the lanterns on to the string, one by one, about ten feet apart. There, that’s all done. So there goes the hawk again, but this time carrying a string of red lanterns!

One stands there fascinated, looking at the little red lights hanging in the sky, swinging gently to the music of the bow. One’s little mind is vaguely filled with awesome thoughts of heaven and earth. The night wind is cutting, but one does n’t mind. Only . . . Mother is calling. One must go in. One knows, however, that one will see the lights from the window, and fall asleep with the comfortable knowledge that the lanterns will be there breaking the terrifying spell of vast darkness, and, perhaps, lighting one’s way to heaven, too.