The Chinese boy is not satisfied with simply holding the end of a kite string and running up and down the block or field trying to raise a heavy paper kite with a half pound of rags for a tail. He makes a kite as light as possible without any tail which has the peculiar property of being able to move in every direction. Sometimes an expert can make one of these kites travel across the wind for several hundred feet; in fact, I have seen boys a full block apart bring their kites together and engage in a combat until one of their kites floated away with a broken string, or was punctured by the swift dives of the other, and sent to earth, a wreck.
Illustration: Parts of a Chinese Kite
The Chinese boy makes his kite as follows:
From a sheet of thin but tough tissue paper about 20 in. square, which he folds and cuts along the dotted line, as shown in Fig. 1, he gets a perfectly square kite having all the properties of a good flyer, light and strong. He shapes two pieces of bamboo, one for the backbone and one for the bow. The backbone is flat, 1/4 by 3/32 in. and 18 in. long. This he smears along one side with common boiled rice. Boiled rice is one of the best adhesives for use on paper that can be obtained and the Chinese have used it for centuries while we are just waking up to the fact that it makes fine photo paste. Having placed the backbone in position, paste two triangular pieces of paper over the ends of the stick to prevent tearing. The bow is now bent, and the lugs extending from the sides of the square paper are bent over the ends of the bow and pasted down. If the rice is quite dry or mealy it can be smeared on and will dry almost immediately, therefore no strings are needed to hold the bow bent while the paste dries.
After the sticks are in position the kite will appear as shown in Fig. 2. The dotted lines show the lugs bent over the ends of the bow and pasted down. Figure 3 shows how the band is put on and how the kite is balanced. This is the most important part and cannot be explained very well. This must be done by experimenting and it is enough to say that the kite must balance perfectly. The string is fastened by a slip-knot to the band and moved back and forth until the kite flies properly, then it is securely fastened.
A reel is next made. Two ends--the bottoms of two small peach baskets will do--are fastened to a dowel stick or broom handle, if nothing better is at hand. These ends are placed about 14 in. apart and strips nailed between as shown in Fig. 4, and the centers drawn in and bound with a string. The kite string used is generally a heavy packing thread. This is run through a thin flour or rice paste until it is thoroughly coated, then it is run through a quantity of crushed glass. The glass should be beaten up fine and run through a fine sieve to make it about the same as No.2 emery. The particles should be extremely sharp and full of splinters. These particles adhere to the pasted string and when dry are so sharp that it cannot be handled without scratching- the fingers, therefore the kite is flown entirely from the reel. To wind the string upon the reel, all that is necessary is to lay one end of the reel stick in the bend of the left arm and twirl the other end between the fingers of the right hand.
A Chinese boy will be flying a gaily colored little kite from the roof of a house (if it be in one of the large cities where they have flat-roofed houses) and a second boy will appear on the roof of another house perhaps 200 ft. away. Both have large reels full of string, often several hundred yards of it. The first hundred feet or so is glass-covered string, the balance, common packing thread, or glass-covered string. As soon as the second boy has his kite aloft, he begins maneuvering to drive it across the wind and over to the first kite. First, he pays out a large amount of string, then as the kite wobbles to one side with its nose pointing toward the first kite, he tightens his line and commences a steady quick pull. If properly done his kite crosses over to the other and above it. The string is now payed out until the second kite is hanging over the first one's line. The wind now tends to take the second kite back to its parallel and in so doing makes a turn about the first kite's string. If the second kite is close enough, the first tries to spear him by swift dives. The second boy in the meantime is see-sawing his string and presently the first kite's string is cut and it drifts away.
It is not considered sport to haul the other fellow's kite down as might be done and therefore a very interesting battle is often witnessed when the experts clash their kites.--Contributed by S. C. Bunker, Brooklyn, N. Y.