Korean-Kites-art - 3/2/12
"There's a hole in my kite!" by Lord Archer McRobert.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This article was first published in Cracked Anvil in 2011
There's a hole in my kite!
by Lord Archer McRobert
Many kites are associated with nationalities and that includes Korean bang-pae yeon, or shield kite. While the bang-pae yeon is today considered in the west “the Korean fighter kite,” or just “the Korean,” that is only part of its story.
First, it is a kite with a long history, with much of it being based on wartime uses. The traditional designs were military commands. (Choe). Stories vary, but the kite easily predates the SCA (600-1603 CE) period. The earliest description of kites in Korea dates from the Three Kingdoms era (4-645 CE). One version has kites used in subduing Mongolian stock farmers in the Mog-ho rebellion during the Goryo Dynasty (918-1380 CE). The kites either lifted fire bombs into a fort, or provided the means for an air assault into the fort with troops. A third dates from the time of the 28th ruler of the Silla Dynasty, roughly 647-654 CE. In the third story, a falling star is believed to be a bad omen before a battle between a ruler's army and rebels. A kite is flown lifting a lantern to place the fallen star back in the heavens. With that, the omen is reversed and the battle won.
The proximity of the Korean peninsula to China may account much for in terms of the shape and construction of the kite and materials used. Similarly, religion – Buddhism specifically – appears to have had a hand in the introduction of kites to the peninsula. Buddhist monks are known to have traveled and spread their beliefs from China to the Korean peninsula during the sixth and seventh centuries CE. They are also known to have spread knowledge of kites to Japan.
The bang-pae yeon is unlike most kites. Its vertical orientation for a rectangle kite is common enough in Asia with examples seen in China, and Japan. But the kite has a center hole, or vent. That isn't seen anywhere else on any other kites. The vent has one purpose: it adds some stability, approximating what a short tail would accomplish and results in a kite that is maneuverable and speedy. The size of vent is important, too. The larger the hole, the slower the kite will fly. A smaller vent results in a quicker, more maneuverable kite (and more difficult to fly, too!).
“The Korean fighter is unique because of its rectangular shape and central vent (bang-gu- mong). A traditional Korean kite’s size and dimen-sions may vary. They are made from paper and bamboo by either the individual flyers or artisans. The common medium size is about 430mm x 560 mm (17” x 22”); small is about 280 mm x 380 mm (11” x 15”); large is about 120 mm x 1520 mm (44” x 60”). The size of the kite will depend on the area and wind strength. In strong areas, like near the sea, kites tend to be large with thick spars and a two-ply paper sail.” (Choe) The kite is classified by design and color. There are more than 70 kinds of Korean kites. “They are basically rectangular and made of white paper decorated with different colors and designs.”
Many of the traditional designs are from signals used in war. Others have specialty uses. The Aeg-mag-i-yon or Song-aeg-yon is a kite flown to ward off evil. It is flown at the end of the first 15 days of the new lunar year. The kite flyer will let out all his string, and then untie it from the kite reel (called a ol-li, za-sae, or gamga). No one will pick up such a kite for fear of picking up the former owner’s misfortunes. The Aeg-mag-i-yon kite can be made as simply as writing “bad luck go away, good luck stay” on the kite. Since white is a color of mourning there, the only time a plain white kite would be seen was if the flyer was in mourning.
“Frame and Sail: The frame is made of five bamboo sticks of various diameters but symmetrical stiffness. The vertical is the stiffest and, like the diagonals, is slightly tapered toward the trailing end; whereas the middle spar, which has no bowing line, is made very thin because it must bend back easily.
“The sail is made of Korean handmade paper, called sunji or sun hanji, remarkably light, stiff and strong; it is simply folded on the sides, without any reinforcing line, at least on regular-size kites.
“A good kite needs a slightly convex face. First the leading edge spar is glued on the sail, and then the diagonals, the spine and the middle spars are attached lightly. The shaping is done by steaming the center of the sail to give some slack around the hole. Then the diagonals are glued firmly, tensioning the paper as it dries and slightly bowing it back.
“Bridling and Bowing: The central bridle, attached to the middle of the hole, is always slack but comes under tension when the kite is in the air. Silk cutting thread is used for the four bridling lines of competition kites.” (Fabre)
Traditionally, the ol-li is loaded with several thousand feet of silk line, often four colors in bands. The line is called sang-baeg-sa (Korean silk), or dang-baeg-sa (Chinese silk). The line is coated with a mixture of ground porcelain or glass, and adhesive made from egg, glue or rice starch. The ol-li is made of wood with a handle through the axis. Though they can be flat (which is used mostly by children), they are often made with four to eight spokes. The reel is made of maple, oak, ironwood or pine (the latter being the children’s reel). The Koreans consider the kite and reel a system, and one without the other is an incomplete set.
“Survey of Korean Kites” Choe Sang-su 1958 “Fighter Kites and beyond” Wayne Hoskins 2000 Skytec Arts, Clermont, FL
“The Fighter Kites of Korea” The Drachen Foundation
“The super fast fighter kites of Korea” Pierre Fabre, Kitelines Fall 1994 Vol 11, (1), 31-35
WIND: Gentle to Moderate
LINE: 4.5/6.8 kg (10/151b) test
SAIL: 1 - 535 mm x 355 mm (21" x 14") rice paper
1 - 520 mm (20-1/2") x 2 mm (1/16") x 5 mm
(3/16") split bamboo (spine)
2-345 mm (13-1/2") x 2 mm (1/16") x 5 mm
(3/16") split bamboo (cross spars)
2-620 mm (24-1/2") x 2 mm (1/16") x 5 mm
(3/16") split bamboo (diagonal spars)
BRIDLE: 1880 mm (74") flying line FRAMING LINE: flying line TAILLESS
NOTE: As a rule-of-thumb, the diameter of the hole in a Korean Fighter is one-third the kite's width: The smaller the hole, the faster the kite.
- An easy ratio to remember for the size of a Korean kite is 3:4:5. (3 units wide, 4 units of length and 5 units for the diagonal).
Copyright 2011 by Mike Wilson, 124 N. Second, Osborne, KS 67473. <kitearcher at hotmail.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.