◎ 神奇的南通板鹞风筝（作者：吉华|译者：王雪飞） (阅读936次)|
Wonderful Nantong Plane-Kite
I. Cultural meaning of the kite styles
Among the rich assortment of kites, a Nantong-style plane kite is mainly hexagonal of which the frame is made up of a longitudinal rectangle and a diagonal square. Therefore, it is called the hexagonal plane kite or simply the hexagonal star with a red heart representing the Sun and six pointing angles in dark color representing six magic weapons against evil spirit in six directions. But the white undertone symbolizes the sky. The hexagonal-star kite had been the ancient totem of the local people for peace, good luck and exorcism against bad evil spirits and bad weather. With the hexagon as the unit, it is possible to form a seven-star kite and even a nineteen-star kite. The basic kite pattern is a hexagon with a red round core and six black star-deltas. Due to the ancestors’ enhancement of esthetic taste, the six star-deltas became much more colorful in stead of being black all the time. Beside that myth paintings have been adding to the round core and the six star-deltas as to increase the exorcist might and art effect of the star-deltas. The nineteen-star kite with 19 hexagonal stars as well as 28 holes whose accumulated area as much as 31% of the surface area of the entire kite which is still able to take off with many large and small whistles. This is an excellent piece of work as an evidence of the wise ancestors who had mastered the complicated knowledge about aerodynamics and tough tricks for kite fabrication.
II. Origin of hard-wing kites and way of kite-flying
The Nantong-style plate kite, which came into being as early as in Song Dynasty and became popular in the farming society, enjoys a history for more than a thousand years. It is also known as the rigid-wing plate kite or “banyao”(plate kite) or simply called “yaozi”. The acoustic articles fixed to the kite are called the kite whistles or simply whistles such as the key-note whistles, the buzzers, the gourd-mouths and the bamboo whistles, etc. Nantong, being located beside the Yangtze River and the Yellow Sea, is endowed with a vast piece of flat land where the strong wind especially the southeast wind is good for flying large and heavy hard-frame kites, which itself has long been one part of life for the ancient people in Nantong. They would fly kites in case of asking heaven to ward off evil, reporting meteorological conditions, celebrating bumper harvest or simply for the purpose of fitness and entertainment. Kite flying activity is closely linked to production and life of the people. The melodious sound of the kite whistles represents the feeling and heartfelt wishes of the kite owner and flyer. The sound could be the deterrence against the evil spirits, the indignant scream, the excited singing and the joyful symphony in the sky. It is important to keep balance with a pair of tails for kite to fly high and stable in the sky. The tails are actually the two straw ropes tied to the lower portion of the kite. Usually the twist of one rope should be made in such a direction that differs from that of the other rope. Each rope should be made of calamus straw in the shape of a whip in such a length that is approximately twenty times of the height of the kite body. The kite tails as the soft balance organ with flexibility and vitality when the kite is taken off. The side view of the tails would look like two ferocious snakes flying in the sky but the overturned point of view of the splayed tails from the front would remind you of an awe-inspiring obelisk with the kite atop. The standard form of the Nantong-style kite in the sky has such three typical features: (1) The hard and flat kite body in the air which produces the upward force automatically; (2) The whistles all over the kite which issues exciting sound in the blue sky; (3) The pair of long splaying ropes behind the kite which add romantic atmosphere in addition to the sound of whistles.
III. The angle of the launching lead for safe kiting
The kite is more than 1 meter in height and each of the 11 launching leads is as long as the height of the kite. The angle between the upper row of the launching leads and the kite surface is the launching angle for the kite defined as “the flying angle of the launching leads”. The safe flying angle should be 96°(±1°). If the angle is less than 95°, the kite would catch too much air with inadequate ventilation and, in case of rapid increase of wind, the kite would go upward violently and keep swaying in bigger and bigger range. Once exceeding the limit ( when the angle between launching leads and the horizon has reached 70°), the kite would even tumble or crash to the ground. Two sets of tails have to be ready then, i.e. the light set of tails for the small wind and the heavy for the strong wind. If the angle is more than 97°, the air caught by the kite would be too little to keep the kite from dropping off. The optimized flying angle for the launching leads is approximately 96°,which would ensure the kite without swaying in strong wind or dropping in small wind. And it is sufficient to use the same set off tails regardless of the wind force.
Of the eleven leading lines in total set for a kite, the four main leading lines, which are connected to the four corners of the kite, are called “flying-angle leads” having such functions of determining the launching angle and maintaining the balance and symmetry of the kite in the air. The other seven lines are the assisting lines to proportionate the air caught by the kite. The cupping depth and form for the kite catching the air are regulated by these seven lines. It is safe for the cupping depth not to exceed 0.6% of the distance between the two main lines (i.e. the upper and down). In another word, it is all right so long as the entire plane is able to catch the air and all the assisting lines can bear the wind force equally and evenly. If the cupping depth is too much, it would be smooth for the kite to ventilate which is also a problem.
The central line from the kite center is quite possible to be regarded as the main lead. In fact, the central line could become one of the main leads only when altogether three leading lines are set in case of a very small kite. Otherwise, the central line can be regarded as one of the assisting lines only.
IV. The whistle is the artistic soul for a plate-kite
The acoustic style of whistles for a kite can be decided by the kite flyer for whom the first fun he would be reluctant to give up is the independent design. Those who love the high-pitch and roaring sound used to fly a giant kite of a size above 296cm with the main whistles as large as the wash basin and the harmony whistles in the last row as big as the large bowl. Those who are fond of crisp sound would fabricate small kites (74cm) with the main whistles as large as the goose egg and gourd or bamboo whistles less than 2cm in diameter. The whistle is the artistic soul for the plate-kite but the key drumming whistle is the soul of souls. The key whistles are expected to have clear drums, full volume and distinctive timbre. Amid the mixed sound of whistles, the oscillation temperament of the key drumming whistles is just like the leading player for a concerto so as to ensure musical sweetness, harmony and beauty. The magic splendor of a plate kite lies in such a way that the sound of whistles has long been developed into perfect music and the mature whistle music culture has taken shape for a plate-kite. The mainstream idea of the whistle music culture is to pursue the momentum of the mixed sound of whistles as well as the beauty of music. The core technology in fabricating the plate-kite is none other than attaching importance to whistle quality in five aspects, i.e. nice design, nice choice of material, nice craftsmanship, nice sound and nice arrangement of whistles on the kite, which can be summarized as “the five niceties”. Whoever pays attention to the taste of a kite would give full attention to “the five niceties” of the whistle quality. Once a plate-kite is deprived of whistles, there would be no more majestic look. Therefore, it has been a matter of prime importance for thousands of years to upgrade the kite by improving the whistles.
V. Wonderful realm for “playing the sky wind” with the plate-kite
The so-called “sky wind” means that there is strong airflow at the altitude of more than 150m although no wind is felt on the ground. The kite flyers used to name such high-level strong airflow “the sky wind”. By “playing the sky wind”, it is actually to send the kite into the high-level strong airflow with force 5, 6 or even 7. The southeast wind is regarded the top-grade airflow by the kite flyers.
As early as in the agrarian age when there was no high-rise building, radio or TV, if the kite flyers came across the favorable southeast wind, they were sure to seize the opportunity to “play the sky wind” even would coincidentally get up late at night for that same purpose. To “play the sky wind” at night is to fly kite in the dark fields. The kite flyer must not only be brave without fearing the ghost but also be as fast as a sprinter to send the kite up to the sky wind. The kite would fail to enter the layer of sky wind unless the flyer is fast enough like a 100m racer. Once the kite enters the layer of sky wind, the whistles would burst into a lasting chorus. Playing the sky wind is the lofty realm for kite flying and also the best time to appreciate the sound of whistles on the kite. The southeast wind in the sky is excellent sky wind unanimously acknowledged by the kite flyers simply because the wind direction and force are stable so that the kite could be safe and steadfast as if being hung there in the sky.Beside that, the lasting time for the sky wind is usually one night, the kite flyer can have the pleasure to his heart’s content. During the windy period, there would be approximately 300,000 kites in the sky over 8000sq.km. of the whole Nantong area. For example, if one kite has 200 whistles, then there would be 60,000,000 resounding whistles in the sky including 300,000 pairs of the lead-player key whistles. Wow, what a majestic power and momentum that would shake heaven and earth with a spirit to conquer mountains and rivers! At that moment, the kite flyer would consider himself the happiest person in the world feeling himself totally integrated with the universe while his soul has flown into the sky making comments to the acoustic quality of those whistles on each kite. In the human world, on the Nantong plate-kite has such a magnificent function known as “symphony in the sky”. This shows that the local ancestors had grasped the super wisdom and sophisticated manual technique to tame the nature.
VI. The reason for the plate-kite that have been inherited for a millennium
Why the plate-kite has been handed down from the past generations for more a thousand years instead of being lost since it has no direct help to the human being as far as the basic necessities of life are concerned? Because the kite is the carrier for the people to express their happiness, anger, sadness and joy by way of the whistles thereupon. To fly a kite is to launch one’s heartfelt wishes, release one’s weal and woe, as well as celebrate the harvest.In the eyes of a kite flyer, he is not merely flying a kite, but is giving full plat to his imagination and creativity because each flight is a test on his own originality and craftsmanship. By so doing every time, it is not only possible for him to taste the delight in a kite flying, but also possible to have a fresh awareness or a new creative concept. A kite flyer is expressing his ideals and have fun in the process of constant creation and realization. Most kite flyers are fond of designing and fabricate the kite rather than buying the finished product. The plate kite is a medium for one to give play to his creative ability and express his feelings and ideas. It is simply because the kite has positive effect to man for his cultural life that it is quite natural for kite fabricating and flying to have been inherited and promoted generation after generation voluntarily and consciously.
VII. The current situation for the still prosperous plate-kites
In Nantong, there are still 200,000 kite-flying fans and nearly 10,000 kite manufacturers at present. Lu Baoru, Lu Hande, Guo Chengyi, Guo Chengkai, Wang Zhixiang, Ren Suisheng, Wang Zejun, Huang Zhiling, Lu Songshan, Zhang Wenzhi, Gao Zexian, Ge Wenquan, Li Yulin, Wang Zhiqing, Xu Zhenxi, Shi Guhua, Yu Haitao, Yao Chunhua, Wu Xiaojun, Xu Junhua, Zhu Jun, Tang Zhiliang, Liu Zhigang, Lu Xiaorong, Zong Guangming, Bao Jinshu, Zhang Dongming, Cui Wei, Fang Zhuhua and Ji Hua are the brilliant representatives of the kite masters today. Their works and footprints have covered one hundred and twenty regions at home and abroad. 480 medals and prizes were awarded to them after they participated more than kite exhibitions and flying activities. More than a hundred Chinese and foreign mainstream media reported on their deeds and events in inheriting and disseminating the kite culture and handicrafts. So far there are 6 kite museums, 20 kite workshops and hundreds of kite flying teams as well as the kite associations in the municipal and county levels.With gratitude and responsibility in their mind, the kite culture inheritors are determined to make greater effort and work better in protect and promote the Nantong plate-kite culture and technology. The Nantong-style plate kite has won great reputation and nice recognition at home and abroad. The Nantong kite has been included in the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage protection list by the central government which has attached great importance to it.