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Weifang kite festival attracts international hobbyists

By Chitraleka Basu (China Daily)

10:28, July 23, 2012

It was a bit of a surprise to find Qian Jianguo on stage at the ceremony of the 28th Weifang International Kite Festival early this year. Qian, a diminutive man of 68, performed his own little act, twirling and gliding on stage, imitating the motions of his modest eagle-shaped kite - a self-designed contraption that can fly even without wind to keep it afloat. We had met him earlier in the day, and he never gave a hint that he would be a star turn among the musical celebrities with huge fan bases in the audience.

His self-effacing attitude, we found, was endemic among most Weifang residents. They let the kite take center-stage and build their lives around it.

Take Tang Ang, for instance, whom we met at the Weifang Fuyanshan International Kite-flying Ground, minutes into the first day of the festival.

Standing underneath a glowing morning sky crisscrossed by whizzing kites of all shapes - centipede dragons, long-tailed phoenixes, angular stunt kites, even a motorcycle - Tang tells us about his strong attachment to kites.

He had quit a good job with a phone-parts manufacturing company and taught himself to speak English so he could be a better advocate for Weifang kites beyond Chinese shores. Tang, in his 30s, now works as a sales manager with a kite-manufacturing company that supplies its products to Houston in the US state of Texas.

"Weifang, as you know, is the kite capital of the world, and being a Weifang native, I wanted to be a part of its kite culture," he says.

Qian Jianguo was a late entrant to this culture. He took up the craft after retiring from a factory in 2005 - "hoping to add a bit of color to my life" - and learned it by keenly watching others. Now, of course, it's the only life he knows.

"I find it's a great way to make friends across the world through flying kites. I feel I am working as a cultural ambassador for the country, helping foreign friends to know about Chinese culture," he says.

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