Waves Sharon Kites

  • Issue: June 1995
  • Designer: N. & M. Eshel
  • Stamp size: 40 x 25.7 mm
  • Plate no.: 256
  • Sheet of 9 stamps Tabs: 3
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Offset

From time immemorial the skies have stimulated mans imagination-from ancient gods who came from the skies to mythological heroes who sprout wings and roamed about freely in the air. Man has always sought to conquer the skies, and it is through the kite that he first managed to do this-in the skies of China thousands of years ago.

There are many legends around the birth of the kite: some of them tell of a prince who wanted his flag flown high above the walls of his castle, and so strengthened with bamboo and tied with a cord he let it soar upward. Another legend tells of an old Chinese farmer who tried to grasp his flat, conical hat as it flew off his head and thus discovered the kite. Historians connect the age of the kite with the age of silk which was first used some 4500 years ago. The assumption is that the combination of silk and bamboo, and the wealth of knowledge that the Chinese had, must have brought about the invention of the kite.

The first documentation of kites is from the 4th Century BC when a Chinese engineer built and flew kites in the form of fishes and birds. In the 3rd Century BC, the Chinese general Huna link acquired a place of distinction for himself among the heroes by using a unique method of terrifying people. This was a resonance system built from bamboo bows and silk strings, connected to kites which he flew at night over the enemy camp. The wailing of the strings put the fear of death into the hearts of the foe, causing them to flee for their lives.

Kites were built and developed not only in China, but also by her neighbours. Kites have different characteristics and uses, and even today they symbolize the connection between man and the heavens. The kites of the Far East were designed and built in different forms, some of them in the shape of birds and fowls, and some of them as snakes, dragons, and ghosts. Figures of heroes and fighters were often drawn on kite sails. A popular pastime in the East is 'Kite Fights". Fighter Kites are relatively small kites that can be controlled by tightening and loosening its string which is partly covered by ground glass, and which is capable of cutting any other string that gets in its way. Thousands of participants take part in these Kite Fights and the victor is the last kite to remain in the sky.

The kite was brought to the West at the end of the 12th Century AD. by Marco Polo, who~a1so introduced silk, tobacco, and gunpowder to Europe. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman and scientist, carried out an experiment on channelling lightening. On a stormy night, he flew a kite to which was attached a heavy iron key to attract lightening. During this period, many physicists and other scientists studied kites and found many uses for them, such as harnessing them to coaches, and using them to create rescue devices for ships. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Laurence Hargrave, the Australian scientist, built a kite in the form of a box, and the Wright brothers, the inventors of the aeroplane, developed their revolutionary invention from this same box. Even after the arrival of the aeroplane, the kite continued to flourish. Two of the most notable people involved in this field were Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, and Samuel Franklin Cody, the American circus man, who produced a kite that was able to lift an observer to a great height, and also established the Kite Corps in the British Navy.

During the Second World War, every American fighter pilot was equipped with a folding box kite which served as a distress signal device in the event that he might be forced to abandon his plane. Other kites were used in training anti-aircraft personnel and military sharp-shooters. The National American Space Agency developed the Delta Wing for the purpose of returning parts of the Saturn Missile to earth. The wing was developed and tested in a kite. Similarly, all the hang- gliders which are so popular today, are based on and began with the kite.

Today kite activities are growing and becoming popular throughout the world. In the East, they continue, to this day, to build and fly kites in their traditional style. Across the globe thousands of people now take part in competitions and festivals in which small, simple kites, along with giant kites paint the skies in endless forms and patterns.

In Israel each year there are a number of major kite sporting events. One takes place in August at the Israel Museum, another at Em Harod over the Succot holiday, and there is also an International Kite Festival, which takes place during the Passover holiday.

top top