Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lost In The Library, Installment 5, Kites: Sculpting The Sky by Tsutomu Hiroi

Spring is a time for enjoying beautiful weather while spending time outdoors. Since I was young I've always enjoyed flying kites but never really thought about where they originate from or how I might build one. The CFL's copy of Tsutomu Hiroi's Kites: Sculpting The Sky is an excellent resource for kite enthusiasts, especially those interested in Asian and Japanese kite history and construction. The book begins with a concise history dating the first kites to China around two thousand years ago. The first kites were made of wood and cloth until the invention of paper in China around 105 A.D. Many of the early kites were used for military or scientific purposes due to the knowledge needed to build and fly the contraptions. Around 1000 A.D. the kite became a popular recreational pastime among the Chinese. The popularity of the kite in China caused it to spread to the rest of Asia as a scientific and military tool, and as a leisure outlet. In Europe the first instance of a kite is noted by Hiroi as being 230 B.C. The kite followed a similar path to popularity in Europe as it did in China and Asia.

Hiroi's book is translated from Japanese with a heavy emphasis on the kite's cultural history in Japan. Japan even has multiple contemporary and historical kite centers throughout the country. Hiroi uses images and diagrams extensively to give the reader an idea of the artistry and detail present in kite construction and presentation. The photographs are most extensive when exampling the three types of Japanese kites including the northern which migrated directly from the Asian continent and is examples by the Goto Islands baramon, the south pacific derived Nagasaki hata which is triangular, and the indigenous originating solely in Japan and examples by the Managu.

Hiroi's kite construction section is the highlight of the book with detailed step by step directions and easy to follow diagrams. After a brief introduction concerning aerodynamics Hiroi moves into needed materials and equipment for kite construction including kite line, paper and decorating, frames and glue, and sketching patterns with additioanal ideas included. The step by step portion shows the construction of a box kite, gunya-gunya kite, and building a bamboo frame. There is also a section of what I would call crazy kites including extremely large and ornate examples. The last section of the book examines kites from other parts of the world along with some construction ideas.

If you have an interest in kite flying and construction come by the library for a look at Kites: Sculpting the Sky.

- Christopher Bishop

Websites of Interest:

Google kite directory
Kite links galore

Japanese Kite Collection
Tons of links and images covering the gamut of kite interests

The Drachen Foundation
An organization dedicated to promoting kite culture with excellent links and a bibliography of kite resources

Books of Interest in the CFL Collection:
Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites To The Space Age
Tom D. Crouch
629.13 CROUCH

The Art and Craft of Paper
Faith Shannon
745.54 SHANNON

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