Two ancient Chinese men share the credit for coming up with one of China's biggest claims to fame. During the fourth century B.C., Gongshu Ban and Mo Di, a patron of the arts and a philosopher, respectively, constructed bird-shaped kites that dipped and dove in the wind. The pair's novelty caught on quickly.
Over time, the Chinese adapted and added to the initial kite's design and found new uses for it beyond amusement. Kites became an easy way to fish without a boat, simply by using a line and hook draped from the kite and dangling it into an inaccessible body of water. Kites also became instrumental in military applications, serving as unmanned drones that delivered payloads of gunpowder to enemy fortifications. In 1232, the Chinese employed kites to drop propaganda leaflets over a Mongol prisoner-of-war encampment, urging the captured Chinese there to rebel and eventually overtake their captors [source: Pleskacheuskaya].
Soon, the urge to fly would be married with the technology of the kite to produce another Chinese invention, the hang glider.