According to tradition, kites made of silk and bamboo first appeared in China some 3,000 years ago, but the earliest written account of kite flying is about 200 BC. A Chinese general used a kite to determine the distance his troops needed to tunnel under a city's walls. Kite flying spread throughout Asia and became a national pastime in several countries. From Asia, kites continued to migrate to the rest of the world. In the English language, kites share their name with a graceful and colorful hawk.
Though the aerodynamics of kites remain the same, the materials, shapes, and uses of kites have multiplied throughout the centuries. Ancient Chinese kites have given way to kites of paper, polyester, and rip-stop nylon. Flat kites with diamond or geometric shapes share the skies with intricate box kites and other three-dimensional forms and inflatable spar-less airfoils. Over the years, kites have advanced science, meteorology, building construction, and photography. Modern enthusiasts use kites for sports like hang-gliding and competitive kite fighting, and in traditional and national festivals. Other people use kites just for fun. Nothing sends the human spirit soaring so well as a colorful kite aloft in a gentle breeze.