Tue, Jan 09, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Kite maker wants hobby turned into performance

TRADE SECRET:Feng Tsan-huang’s designs were stolen after he gave a set of kites to the hosts of a kite festival in China, forcing him into the custom-made kite sector

By Chang Yi-chen and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Taiwanese kite maker Feng Tsan-huang holds one of his kites in Yilan County on Oct. 15 last year.

Photo: Chang Yi-chen, Taipei Times

Taiwanese kite maker Feng Tsan-huang (馮燦煌) has performed across the nation as well as overseas using his stunt kites, customized kites and the famous “bicycle kite,” and he hopes to one day turn kite-flying into a theatrical performance.

Feng, 57, grew up in Yilan County’s Wujie Township (五結).

When he was seven years old, he asked his father and great-uncle to teach him how to fly kites, Feng said.

As soon as he was on holiday, he would run to an empty field with his kite, he said.

“My kite always flew higher than other people’s,” he said. “[I] felt a great sense of accomplishment.”

Whenever the weather is good, Feng still brings his kite outside, he said.

He enjoys the feeling of vastness and relaxation when he flies a kite, Feng said.

Looking back at his kite business of more than 30 years, Feng said that when he first began, he made less than NT$5,000 per year.

After he patented the stunt kites he had developed, orders begin to come in one after another, Feng said, adding that his studio grew into a kite factory with dozens of employees.

In 2002, Feng attended a kite festival in China and gave the hosts a set of stunt kites as a gift, Feng said.

However, Chinese businesspeople copied his kites and sold them back to Taiwan, Feng said, adding that Chinese suppliers soon replaced local manufacturers.

“At the time, wages and materials in China were cheaper than in Taiwan,” Feng said. “All the orders went to China.”

Unable to compete with Chinese suppliers, Feng closed his factory and moved toward producing custom-made kites.

From asymmetrically shaped kites to the world’s only bicycle kite, the products became his source of price, Feng said.

“Anything the client wants, I can make,” Feng said. “And it can fly high and far.”

There are many secrets to how the bicycle-shaped kite can fly and have its pedals spin at the same time, Feng said, adding that although many people around the world have tried to copy his work, they have all fallen short.

However, with the rise of e-commerce in China over the past few years, counterfeits of his designs have started to be sold on Taobao.com, Feng said.

“As a creator, how can I not be angry seeing my creations constantly being counterfeited?” Feng said.

Feng said that although many people have asked for the bicycle kite, he has kept the kite for performance purposes only, despite experiencing setbacks because of the counterfeits.

Revealing the secret would make it worthless, Feng said, adding that once a skill is sold, it is lost.

He has always wanted to turn kite-flying into a theatrical performance, Feng said.

“A few people controlling a few kites and forming shapes in the sky or moving and performing to music — how beautiful is that image,” Feng said, adding that he hopes to fulfill his dream one day.

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