I went to Nanjing the other week (which I might get round to blogging about eventually), on the second day we went for a walk in a park and came across the usual bunch of of old people exercising and people flying kites. Half of them were sat around, presumably making small talk about the state of the wind that day, how they used to come here while it were still a ming palace or how they used to able to buy 1km of nylon string for 2 fen and still have enough to buy a portion of xialongbao; the other half were holding the ends of extremely taut pieces of string, which, if you looked hard enough, were attached to tiny dots of colour in the sky.
Nanjing Kite Society
One of them was struggling to string up an odd looking kite, it was kind of shaped like an octopus but was just made of fabric and string, no sticks, it caught my interest, we went over for a chat.
Octopus – a strange subject for a kite
It turns out that “teacher Wang” was the leader of the Nanjing Kite Society and had invented this kite himself he said, “it is based on parachute principles” he said, sure enough the kite had lots of fancy wind pockets to propel the kite to the edge of space itself. It had taken him two days he said, he had made it himself. “Can we see it fly” I asked, “Yes, of course!”, “HURRAY!!!”.
He unravelled the string and my friend helped him to launch it, off he went, sprinting backwards, the kite followed, about 10 feet off the ground and floated to the ground the second he stopped, momentarily bobbing upwards every time he jerked the strings in an attempt to bring it up. We tried again, and again, and again.
Mr Wang walked back to us, winding up the string, “it’s the wind” he explained, “it died down a while ago”, actually I’d already noticed a late arriver struggling to get his red crab in the sky, “this kite needs level 2 wind” (kite speak), I pretended to understand and agreed with him
“Let me show you how it would look” he said, and off he took, sprinting round the park with the kite six feet behind him. When he got back he was panting like a hot dog “DID YOU SEE? DID YOU SEE?”
Teacher Wang – Lord of all Kites
In the end I was so amused we offered to buy it from him and took it home for 50rmb (with string), I’m just waiting for level 2 wind and I’ll be out there, ruling the skies. I can guarantee it’s going to fly better than the last kite Swiss James tried to fly.