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99 Chinese Kites

99 中国的风筝

The National Museum of Art in Beijing held an exhibition of Chinese Kites which ended in February 2008. The kites were from artists in Beijing, Tianjin, Weifang, Nanjing and Nantong. These are all centers of traditional kite making in China.

Kites have been made in various forms for over two thousand years. Its history goes back before the written record. The present collection is of modern vintage - the earliest having been made in the 1970's. Many of the kites in the exhibition are from families who have passed the art through generations of kite makers, father teaching son. To ground us in reality, I have included pictures of kites flown around Beijing. Kiting is a living sport. The most beautiful of the kites belong in museums, but the full beauty of a kite is at the end of a piece of twine pulling us out of ourselves.

Most of the kites contain classical images of traditional symbols. I have noted these where it will help you understand the titles given to the kites. The present generation of Chinese often do not know these stories. They decorate with traditional things at New Year just as we put up wreaths and holly. In the Victorian Age each flower had a meaning and message - you can still find them on the Internet - but you would be hard put to find someone to give daisies who would get meaning beyond the beauty of the flower. You will also see that the kites ordinarily flown today are most often of modern design.

The thumbnails will take you to various segments of the series so you can skip around. I grouped the miniature kites together, but other than that there is no definite order. Click on any picture to take you to the next picture, or use the arrows at the top of the individual pages to navigate.
Last update: June 2008
© Marilyn Shea, 2008