Located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province, Nantong, also called Tongzhou in the old days, is an ancient city with a rich culture. The name of Nantong has always been associated with blue calico. However, apart from blue calico, Nantong is also famous for another kind of handicraft: board snipe kite.

Kites were originated in China more than 2000 years ago. There is a slang in the Chinese sphere of kites: “snipe of the south and hawk of the north”. The hawk of the north refers to kites of Weifang (Weifang is located in Shandong Province and the famous hometown of kites), while the snipe of the south is board snipe kites. Board snipe kites play an important role among the four major schools of kites in China.
A board snipe kite consists of several hexagons, each of which is called a star. According to the number of stars, board snipe kites are named qilianxing or jiulianxing. The more stars, the bigger the kite is. The surface of the kites is usually painted with popular legendary figures or auspicious patterns, with realist techniques often used in Chinese painting that adds a sense of richness and exquisiteness. The colors are mostly red, black, green, and purple, showing a striking contrast.

History of Board Snipe Kite
Board snipe kites have been popular in Nantong to this day, which is not born out of thin air, but closely related to the local geography and climate as well as people’s work and production.

Close to rivers and the sea, Nantong is flat with many vast, alluvial plains and beaches. Meanwhile, its monsoons produce stable, strong southeasterly wind in spring. It is special in that the air near the ground (“difeng”) does not blow hard while air at higher altitudes (“tianfeng”) is very stable and the wind is strong, which is very suitable for flying large kites like board snipe kites. In addition, there are many fishermen in Nantong since ancient times. And fishermen are most afraid of weather changes while fishing in the sea. Therefore, kites are used to indicate wind direction and wind force to see whether it is suitable for going out to the sea.
In the old days, kites were an essential part of people’s lives and sentiments. Many people regarded kites as a sacred symbol to reduce disasters and bring happiness. As a result, kites were worshiped in the main halls (reception room), second only to the Bodhisattva or family halls for the ancestors of the family, and to be passed on from generation to generation. People also believed that the thunderous sound of the board snipe kite in the sky was the communication between heaven and earth. It conveyed the Chinese philosophy of tianrenheyi, which pays attention to the harmony between heaven and earth as well as between humans and nature.

Symphony in the Air

There are many kinds of kites all over the world. Those who like to fly kites or watch kites usually focus on how to pull the kite aloft or get it fly high. However, board snipe kite is probably the only kite that is so large and able to create sounds of music in the sky.

Shaokou is the most prominent feature of board snipe kite. High-altitude airflow swirls and oscillates rapidly in the whistles to make a wonderful sound in the sky. Shaokou includes shao and kou. Shao is generally small, oblong, and makes clear and loud sounds, while kou, called the ringing bell, is bigger, round, and creates a deep and vigorous sound. Shao and kou vary in size and are arranged to form a harmonious and unified symphony orchestra with a wide range of notes from low to high. When the kite flies, there would be a melodious, wonderful symphony in the air, which could be heard from the ground to the sky. Enjoy the wonderful experience brought by board snipe kites with your hands, eyes, and ears!

Spring in the String of a Kite
The process of making a board snipe kite is rather complicated and lengthy, and it is not easy to pull it aloft. Due to its heavy weight, board snipe kite requires wind speed of at least 29-49 km/h and the close cooperation of a few, or even dozens of persons in the process. But when the kite rises into the air, you would be filled with pride and all the worries would be dispelled. With the string in the hand and the kite before your eyes, it is a real moment to enjoy the beauty of nature.

In this season of blooms and growth, kite flying is not an exclusive right of children, but for everyone who runs merrily on the grass with a spirit of youth. Every string of the kites is connecting a happy, free heart.

 

 

 

 

 

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