What do the words ‘Chinese Dragon Kite’ mean to you? It seems that the most well-known variety is the centipede style of kite. This type consists of a large head and a long train of small disks that form the tail. Some of these are very big and very expensive, since a lot of labor goes into making them. Most are mid-sized, but still not cheap compared to children’s kites.
The large centipede dragon kite is an amazing thing, whether it is hanging in the foyer of a large building as a piece of art or flying with its tail pointing at the clouds.
If you get up close, you can see great detail in the fine bamboo best bearded dragon leash harness framework of the head in particular. Raw silk is used for covering, and this is precisely and painstakingly painted by hand. Like many things Chinese, bright red is used a lot but plenty of other colors are used as well.
The tail sections, which are really just a number of smaller flat kites are also constructed from thin bamboo strips covered with raw silk and then hand painted. Traditionally, each tail section has a thin bamboo rod running through it, with a feather attached to each end.
The craftsmanship in these kites is just mind-boggling. No wonder it can take a team of artists up to 2 months to create one, using traditional techniques and tools.
Probably the best known place of manufacture for these kites is Weifang, the home of traditional Chinese kite making. Dragon kites are exported from there to all around the world.
It all depends on the size of the kite! The smaller sizes, where the tail is only a few meters long can be bought for around US$50. The very largest, with tails that seem to stretch into the distance, can set you back around US$1000!
I’ve noticed that the available sizes can vary quite a lot from shop to shop, hence the price range will too. Usually, the price includes a good quality storage box, flying line and a winder.
What kind of wind does it take to fly these things? Surprisingly, just a soft breeze of 3 kph (2 mph) is enough for some of the best large dragon kites to stay off the ground! All those light little tail sections all pulling together generate a lot of lifting force. The head is just for looks.
However, you might need a decent breeze to get the smallest dragon centipede kites to fly. These kites are not as efficient as their larger cousins.
A flying dragon kite is an impressive sight, with the long tail snaking skywards, and tail section feathers fluttering in the breeze. Like a live creature, gently moving about on its leash.
The smallest ones are pretty easy to get into the air. Just attach the bridle and hold it up for the breeze to catch the tail and take it up. The larger kites, while still easy to launch, take a bit more organization with connecting things up, laying out the tail and so on.
In conclusion, a couple of notes on some aspects of the Chinese dragon kite that go back a long time…
Firstly, nearly all authentic dragon kites have the following features…
- a ‘centipede’ tail structure which represents a snake
- deer horns, which represent long life and good luck
- catfish whiskers, which represent wealth
- tigers’ eyes, since the tiger is strong and rules over other animals
- a human beard, which symbolizes intelligence and talent
Secondly, many of the kites that are flown or displayed around the world today were produced by Imperial Dragon Kites of Shanghai, in China. This company is old by anyone’s standards! Can you believe they have been manufacturing Chinese dragon kites for nearly 2 centuries!
Tim Parish and his family are rediscovering the joys of kite flying. They log their kiting fun on their My-Best-Kite.com website, and also research the kiting world. This site will introduce you to many kinds of kites and kite flying activities, including of course!