In days past, the kite game constitutes a genuine contest, and the prizes awarded to the winners are usually valuable ones.
As a proof, one has the following common saying :
“Hold tightly the cord /Cầm dây cho chắc
Agitate it regularly /Lúc lắc cho đều
So that I could fly the kite /Để bo đám riêu 1
To earn some rice for you /Kiếm gạo cơm ăn.”
At the present time, at the Vo-Duong village (commonly called Tri village, Bắc Ninh province), people still organize each year, toward the beginning of the summer a kite contest. A great number of amateurs specialized in this game used to take part in it.
Kites are playthings that must be made by connoisseurs, clever in the making as well as in the kiteflying techniques.
The cord that’s used for lifting the small kites is made of thin lamellae of “giang” (Dendrecalamus patelaris), which could be replaced by cotton or silk threads.
With the great kites, the making of the cord and the frame requires a meticulous long-lived work, involving much carefulness.
In spites of the great diversity between big and small kites, one can always distinguish two main kinds of kites: the ones with tail, and the ones without a tail.
With the Vietnamese, all the kites don’t have the same forms people give them. They show the most various subjects and forms, most of them representing stars and animals.
Whatever their forms might be, they consist of a frame made of bamboo and covered with “giấy bàn” (rice paper). A small cord called “lèo” is tied, in the letter Y-shape, right at their middle part. Most of the kites are made up by the players, often connoisseurs, and none of them is put on sale.
(Based on an article by Mr. Ngô Quý Sơn, published by the Indochina Institute for the Studies of Man)
I. Tailless kites
a. Vàng kite /Diều vàng
The “Diều vàng” is called simple kite. It’s shaped like an oviform with elongated wings. We might meet with very big “Diều vàng”, some up to 3 metres in length and 1 metre wide. Such a kite can be lifted and flown very high, only thanks to the strength of very strong young men.
b. Moor-hen’s wing kite /Diều cánh cốc
The “Diều cánh cốc” is made of two series of bamboo rods that intersect in the middle. The horizontal series has the shape of an 8. The vertical one consists of an oval at its superior part, and a square at its base.Fig.2: Moor.hen-kite
c. Fish kite /Diều con cáFig.3: Fish-kite
This type of kite simulates two fish, joined side by side. One glues paper on both fish and ornaments them with drawings so as to give to the toy the shape of two interlocked fish.
d. Butterfly kite /Diều con bướm
On the butterfly’s head, one fixes two bent and thin lamellae of bamboo, representing the insect’s antenna.
e. Crow kite /Diều con quạ
The “Diều con quạ” is shaped almost like the butterfly kite. The only difference is that the “Diều quạ” has no eyes, no feet, and no probe. Its body is shaped like a rather long triangle.
f. Character “thập” kite /Diều chữ thập
This is the most simple kind of kite, flown by children under ten years old. Its frame consists of two pieces of bamboo tied into a cross. The vertical piece of bamboo is a little longer than the horizontal one.
g. Pillow kite /Diều cái gốiFig.7: Pillow-kite
This type of kite is identical to the european kites (*). It has the shape of a parallelepiped and two squares bound by four small bamboo rods, constituting its frame. The two extremities are recovered with paper. The remaining part is empty, with no spine and no tail. The pillow kite is flown in the villages of Nam Định.
II. Kites with tails
a. Plank-bed kite /Diều cánh phân
This type of kite has the shape of a rectangle, lightly bent at its two extremities. Its frame is quite simple. One attaches to its inferior part a cord, just like with all other types of kites, and finally, one ties on it a tail made of paper strips glued to a small bamboo segment.
b. Moon kite /Diều mặt trăng
This kind of kite has a round shape and consists of a vertical rod on which a bamboo circle has been fixed. It’s ended by a long tail.
c. Scolopendrium kite /Diều con rết
This type of kite is simply gigantic and one finds it flown in the vicinity of the town of Nam Định, on the shore of the Vi Hoang river. Some people believe that it’s a Chinese’s invention, and that it’s so called because, once lifted in the air, it looks like a giant scolopendrium.
On a segment of bamboo of one metre long, one attaches five bamboo circles of different dimensions.
The biggest circle at the middle is the animal’s nose. Two smaller circles on both sides of the animal’s nose constitute the eyes of the scolopendrium. Two other smallest circles, placed outside of the two eyes, are the ears of the scolopendrium. Under the nose, one attaches a bamboo arc to figure the scolopendrium’s superior lip, and under the eyes, one fixes another bigger arc to represent its inferior lip.
Behind the scolopendrium’s nose are a series of other circles which the number varies between fifty to sixty of them, on a length that reaches, at times, fifty metres. These circles have the same form with the nose, and are bound together by three strings. To the last circle, one attaches two strips made of paper or light silk, constituting the antennae of the animal’s tail. All rounded surfaces are recovered with thick paper, coated with persimmon glue, or with raw silk. As a special feature, this type of kite differs notably from all other types of kites described above, not only because it’s much bigger and much more complicated, but also because of its handling and making; finally, because of its tail, as, in fact, once flown in the air, this tail, instead of descending, is flying high toward the sky, much higher than its head.
1: “đám riêu” in Vietnamese means flying the kite really high in the sky.
2: I thank Mr. PAUL LEVY, Head of the Archeological Department of the Far-Eastern French School, who’ve had the kindness of telling me about this resemblance.
◊ Source: The set of “Four Books of Tết“, Ass. Frof. Doctor in History NGUYỄN MẠNH HÙNG, President of Institute of Vietnam Studies.
BAN TU THU