Beauty of Traditional Wau

Journeying into the Timeless Artistry of Malaysia's Wau Culture

In Malaysia, there are about 14 traditional kites that are owned and popularized by other states in Malaysia, which comes in different shape, sizes and colours while serving their purpose. Three of them (Wau Bulan, Wau Jala Budi and Wau Kucing) have been gazetted as National Traditional Wau by the Malaysian Kites Council.

Wau Bulan (Kelantanese: Wa bule; Jawi: واو بولن) is an intricately designed kite traditionally flown in the Malaysian state of Kelantan. The shape of its tail looks like a crescent, which is where it gets its name. Wau Bulan is commonly recognized as a Malaysian Kites or a symbol of the Malay people. It has become a synonymous representation of the Malaysian community and its cultural heritage.

The Historical Significance of Wau Bulan

Historically, the use of Wau Bulan can be traced back to the days of the Srivijaya empire, when the Dewa Muda (a mythical prince) is said to have used the kite to map out the districts he had conquered and to display them to his people.

Kite flying was seen as a seasonal activity in the past, often taking place right after the rice harvest. The Wau Bulan was believed to be used for scaring off birds from paddy fields, and also as a means of lulling children to sleep, allowing farmers to tend to their crops without any interruption. However, over time, Malaysian kites were not only present during ceremonial functions but also in major competitions and international festivals as well.

Wau Bulan has been featured in various cultural expressions, including the popular Dikir Barat song "Wau Bulan" (Kelantanese: E Wa Bule) which is widely associated with Kelantan.

The Characteristics of Wau Bulan

Traditionally, Wau can be as big as 3.5m in height and have a 2.5m wingspan, and they usually require the help of a group of people to fly them to the sky. Wau Bulan is recognized for its ability to withstand strong winds and ease of use.

It is necessary for every Wau Bulan design to have certain essential elements that complement the Wau itself. This is crucial in preserving the original identity of the Wau. 

The key aspects include the main structure, size ratio, decorations, and materials used in making the kite. However, this only pertains to the basic shape design of the Wau and \does not include the Sobek (pattern) incorporated into it. 

The main skeleton of Wau is made of bamboo sticks and is tied up with string. The use 

of bamboo as the main structure is because bamboo has a high bending resistance and 

is easy to control. The primary structure covers the head, body/wings, waist, and tail, and each section must be linked by the 'tulang tengah' to ensure each section can connect when the flight is made.

A Look at Different Types of Malaysian Kites

It is hoped that the strings that represent the soulful beauty of traditional Wau culture will be held longer and will continue to soar higher into the sky, preserving its splendor for many years to come. The hope is that the threads that represent our rich cultural heritage will continue to soar higher into the sky, preserving its glory for many years to come.

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