World kite capital set to soar with rich heritage, industry advantages

By ALEXIS HOOI in Beijing and ZHAO RUIXUE in Weifang, Shandong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-05-19 07:50
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A kite in the shape of China's Tiangong space station is flown in April in Weifang, Shandong province, to celebrate the successful return of the three astronauts of the Shenzhou XIII mission. LIU XIAOXI/FOR CHINA DAILY

Community effort

Weifang's villagers are also reaping the rewards of the kite industry. The city's Wangjiazhuangzi village is known as the "No 1 Kite Village in China". There are more than 100 enterprises there engaged in kite-making, with many villagers involved in processing kite fabric and the kites' hand-held line wheels.

The village reports an annual output of more than 90 million kites at a value of 300 million yuan, accounting for more than 80 percent of Weifang's total kite sales.

From design and raw materials to accessories and tying, the village has formed a relatively complete industrial chain. There are 4,700 people in Wangjiazhuangzi, nearly 3,000 of whom are engaged in kite or kite-related sectors. Many others take part when farm work takes less time, said Wang Zhenhua, a Party official of Wangjiazhuangzi.

Villager Sun Yuemei works at the Dashan kite factory, which has been operating for 16 years. It employs more than 30 people and has an annual output value of up to 3 million yuan.

During peak production season, workers use sewing machines and reinforced plastic material to come up with colorful kites to fill orders.

"It's the peak season now," Sun said last month. "Basically, there are orders from all over the country every day. Up to tens of thousands of kites are needed. We work overtime to catch up."

Wang Zhenhua, the Party official, said that the village's traditional bamboo-woven kites have a history of hundreds of years, but the first Weifang International Kite Festival in 1984 truly became the village's business card. Its kites are now sold all over the country and exported to the US, Iran, South Korea, Japan and other parts of the world, he said.

The kites are constantly being updated, with their materials becoming more environmentally friendly and the colors even richer, Wang said. For example, most of the materials used in the past were paper or plastic cloth, but fabrics for down jackets and umbrellas are among the materials now used. Previous kite patterns were all painted, but now 3D digital printing and heat transfer technology are used, he said.

"These materials are environmentally friendly and durable," Wang said.

In recent years, with the improvement of brand awareness and scientific and technological advances, Weifang kites have continued to focus on innovation, aiming for high-quality development. Producers use laser cutting and digital design technologies to make the kites more attractive.

Weifang kites have evolved into thousands of types, with the smallest a little more than 10 square centimeters and the largest spread over 3,600 square meters.

Wang Xiaoping, the chairman of Weifang Kaixuan Kite Manufacturing, said he believes that the core competitiveness of Weifang's kites lies in innovation. Foreign kites are also becoming more sport-oriented and specialized, such as those used for kite-surfing and paragliding, representing development trends that should be closely tracked, he said.

"You can't build a kite behind closed doors," Wang said. "We conduct market research every year, not only to learn from advanced concepts at home and abroad, but also to maintain traditional Chinese characteristics and find a fit between the two."

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