Flute kites in Dai Tra village Hai Phong

Flute kites in Dai Tra village Hai Phong

Flute kites in Dai Tra village Hai Phong: In Hải Phòng, many places have diều sáo (flute kites), but none are as unique as those from Đại Trà, which encompasses the areas of Đại Đồng and Đông Phương communes in Kiến Thụy district. This area is known for producing kites with distinctive curled tails, referred to by locals as “dái diều” (kite testicles). According to the elders in Đại Trà, these kites have a unique design that symbolizes the strength of men, reflecting the “fertility” beliefs in Vietnamese culture.

Origin of Flute kites

According to old tales, the founder of the flute kite craft in Đại Trà village was Trần Quốc Thi, a talented general and royal consort who helped Trần Hưng Đạo defeat the Mongol invaders. Whenever he returned home, he often flew kites in the village fields.

His kites were different from ordinary ones, producing melodious, enchanting sounds. His kites had curled tails, humorously called “dái diều” (kite testicles) by the locals, with the frame resembling kidneys connected to the main body of the kite by the kite’s waist.

The name “dái diều” comes from ancient beliefs that emphasized the strength of men. Consequently, the kites from Đại Trà were strong enough to lift the entire set of flutes while maintaining balance, even against the wind.

Later, Trần Quốc Thi taught the villagers how to make flute kites. The villagers not only made these kites for leisure but also turned it into a livelihood. Thus, the craft of making flute kites was passed down from generation to generation, surviving for hundreds of years and remaining famous to this day.

The design of flute kites has been continuously improved over generations, always impressing onlookers with their unique characteristics.

To create a Flute kites

According to the kite artisans in Đại Trà, creating kites that can soar high requires technical knowledge and significant time investment. The process is meticulous, from selecting materials to shaping and completing the kite. The frame is made from young bamboo, selected for its flexibility and durability, and soaked in water for about 10 days to prevent pests. The main frame is crafted from straight bamboo segments with either 5 or 9 nodes, symbolizing the word “Sinh” (life). The upper and lower frames, although equal in length, differ in size (the upper frame is 10 units long, while the lower is only 7). The kite maker must ensure that for every meter of kite wingspan, there is 30 cm of belly (if the belly is 10 units, the tail width is 8).

Elders in the village recount that kites were once covered with traditional paper, glued with starch or tree resin, but now primarily use nylon and adhesive tape (some places use thread for stitching). The string used to fly the kites has also evolved. Previously, kite enthusiasts used bamboo strips soaked in water, smoothed, boiled, and joined with natural glue, then rolled into spools. Nowadays, nylon or fishing lines are preferred for their lightness and strength.

Flute Kites Flying Locations

Kites fly thanks to the lift provided by the wind. The ideal location for kite flying is a wide, open space free from trees, power lines, and pathways, and it must have wind. Small kites can be flown by one person, but larger kites require at least two people: one to hold the string and one to launch the kite. To fly, position the kite against the wind, pointing upwards at a 45-degree angle. When the wind catches, release the kite with a strong push, and the person holding the string should pull gently to lift the kite higher, gradually releasing the string.

To make Flute kites in Dai Tra village

In Đại Trà, many can make kites and carve flutes, but few understand the musical laws and grasp the “soul” of the flute’s sound. Thanks to passionate individuals, the tradition of flute kite flying endures. To create a beautiful flute sound, a set must include nine types: ầm, ì, bi, bu, bô, do, de, dí, and dị. Kite flyers must listen to the flutes’ tones to understand their sound quality. Making flute kites is an elaborate craft, akin to being a true artist. The flute’s body is crafted from a special type of bamboo, hollowed out and shaped. The head of the flute is often made from jackfruit or sến wood, but the best material is buffalo horn. Only one side of the horn is used, specifically the part that curves upwards when the buffalo lies down.

Standard of Flute kites in Dai Tra village

A standard set of flutes includes 3, 5, or 7 flutes, with sizes decreasing progressively. The largest flute, called sáo cái, is followed by smaller flutes: sáo còi is half the size of sáo cái, the third flute is a third of the second, and so on.

A perfect flute set starts with sáo cái producing one tone, followed by sáo nhì producing three tones, and the third flute producing two tones. If the flutes sound simultaneously, it’s a flaw known as “sáo gọi chó” (flute calling dogs). Enthusiasts describe the flute sounds as “mother calls (sáo cái), child responds (sáo nhì), grandchild applauds (third flute)” or “grandmother calls, grandchild responds, great-grandchild applauds.”

The fame of Đại Trà’s flute kites extends beyond Hải Phòng, reaching nationwide and internationally. Many international visitors come to admire and purchase these unique flute kites. A source of pride for Đại Trà was when a French company made 20 kites with 20 flute sets to participate in the 1,000th anniversary of Thăng Long – Hà Nội. This pride reflects Đại Trà’s successful preservation and promotion of their ancestral traditions.

After stressful workdays, many people turn to kite flying, a traditional folk game. With just a kite, an open space, and some wind, one can enjoy watching kites dance with the wind. For those who love the harmony of nature, flute kites are dubbed the “symphony in the sky.” Thus, kite flying is not just a pastime; the flyers are artisans themselves.

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