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Enthusiasts chase sky-high thrills of wind power

By CHENG YUEZHU | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-30 08:58
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Chinese cultural elements like Peking Opera masks are popular patterns on kites. CHINA DAILY

Until you see it with your own eyes, it might be difficult to envision the surreal scenes at a kite festival, which to kite lovers are ordinary encounters.

Often on a vast expanse of grassland or beach, myriad fantastic and sublime creatures — birds, Chinese dragons, whales, octopuses, and iconic cartoon characters — command the sky and look down upon the attendees. It seems there's nothing human imagination can conjure that cannot take flight.

Many kite festivals also include contests, which are must-see events. Under the skillful maneuvering of virtuosi, different kinds of kites ascend into the heavens and perform jaw-dropping stunts.

There is never a lack of pulse-pounding moments, when sudden wind shifts cause two rival kites to cross paths. But most of the time, thanks to the swift yet elegant control of the flyers, the kites come to terms and return to their own tracks.

While conventionally considered a spring activity in China, for veterans, flying kites is a year-round endeavor.

Gao Zhenying (left), 66, and her husband, Zhao Shiming, 68, have grown from kite enthusiasts into professional athletes. CHINA DAILY

Gao Zhenying, 66, a kite athlete with Beijing Kite Association, says that she goes to a park near her home almost every morning and flies her kite for two hours, usually a simple, single-line eagle kite that can circle in the sky as long as there's a gentle breeze.

When she retired in 2005, Gao began accompanying her husband, Zhao Shiming, 68, also a veteran athlete, and other kite lovers to take photos for them.

"I quite liked the kites, so after a while, taking photos was not enough, and I was tempted to try my hand at flying one. I began with dual-line triangle kites and immediately liked the feeling," she says.

Usually one person controls one kite, but she soon learned to handle a kite in each hand and draw circles or squares in the sky with them. Later, mastering quad-line stunt kites and traditional kites came equally naturally to her.

Gao's mantra on her social media account, "Fly with joy every day", encapsulates her passion for the sport. Whether it's to a nearby park or a distant holiday destination, the couple often gather with fellow enthusiasts and practice flying in formation, undeterred by chilly weather or strong winds.

One of these experienced flyers, Huang He, 52, has a similar experience to Gao — initially spurred by seeing other kite flyers and wanting to have a try, and then driven to persevere out of genuine passion.

"I first got involved in the late 1990s. Our group of flyers has gained recognition in domestic competitions, but I believe that what truly matters is not technique but persistence," Huang says.

"We're a tight-knit group. We spend more than 300 days flying kites outdoors every year; that's nearly every day, except during adverse weather conditions. It shares similarities with all sports. When you practice enough over a sufficiently long period of time, your skills naturally improve."

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