If you are in Vietnam, you will have a chance to fly the interesting “Diều sáo”. Kite flying is popular throughout the year, especially in summer. Vietnamese people of different ages make kites of many shapes, sizes, materials and with bamboo flutes. “Diều sáo” not only attract people by their shapes and colours but also by their flutes. Every afternoon, when the wind tenderly blows, they will play “dieu sao” to enjoy so magical sound created by the flutes.
How to make “diều sáo”?
“Diều sáo” are built in a traditional Vietnamese style, with eight ovoid wings attached, plus five bamboo flutes in graduated sizes, which are mounted on top and make a pleasing drone when the kite is flying. The faster the kite swoops, the more magical the sound of the flutes is.
Children’s kites are often small, simple and covered with paper, while adults’ kites may be more complex, cloth-covered, and feature one or more wind flutes that play melodies as the kites fly.
A typical adult’s kite has four parts: the body, the steering string, the flying string and flutes. The frame is made of the smooth outer bamboo stalk and is well polished. Kite-makers shape bamboo straps into a crescent two to three metres long and one metre wide. After that, they cover the frame with pieces of cotton cloth or carefully glued paper. If one half of the kite is heavier than the other, the steering string will help balance it. This string also serves to direct flight and protect the kite wings from breaking if the wind is too strong. The flying string is also made of bamboo and can be as long as 100m to 150m. Young bamboo straps the size of chopsticks are tied together, then boiled in water or even in traditional Chinese medicine and salt so that the string becomes soft and flexible. Flutes of different sizes and materials can make the sound of birds, car horns, gongs or music. The mouth of the flute must be skillfully carved so that it can properly receive the wind and create the desired sound.
Today, villagers build more sophisticated kites in the shape of phoenixes, butterflies and dragons. They replace thick bamboo strings with thinner bamboo or plastic rope. Modern kites are very light and cost little since the materials to make them are readily available.
How to fly “diều sáo”?
The Vietnamese often fly “diều sáo” in the late afternoon as the sun begins to set. Normally, two people fly one kite. One person holds the flying string while the other takes the kite and runs into the wind until the wind lifts the kite. Both of them keep the kite high in the sky from day to day, even from summer to autumn.
Every year, kite-flying competitions take place in many northern and central provinces in Vietnam. The rules vary from place to place. In general, the most beautiful kite with the most interesting flute melodies wins. In particular, Quang Yen Townlet (Quang Ninh Province) holds a kite-fighting competition: regardless of design, kites that hit or break other kites will win.
Estimated to be some 2,000 years old, “diều sáo” are so popular in Vietnam nationwide, where kite flying is seen as a sport, hobby and a religious custom.