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Science and art fly in tandem

In the 1980s, a professional kite maker and a retired mechanical engineer got together in China to build a better kite.

Chen Zhao Gi, an artist employed by the Chinese Cultural Ministry, designed the rare kites made of silk, bamboo and metal. An engineer, Zhang Tianwei, contributed the mechanics to add motion as air currents pass through the kites, says Blake Van Roekel, program director at the Portland Classical Chinese Garden.

For example, Van Roekel says, a crane kite has a beak that opens and closes and is driven by a propeller in its belly. It also makes a squawking noise that 'sounds like a real crane,' she says.

Six of the mechanical kites are on exhibit until April 21 in the garden's Scholar Studio. The display is part of the garden's celebration of the Clear Brightness Festival, or Qing Ming. The festival has been celebrated in China for thousands of years.

Portland's version of the festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the garden, at Northwest Third Avenue and Everett Street. From noon to 3 p.m. each day, the festival will include sessions on kite design and hands-on kite-making workshops for children 6 and older. Children 5 and under can take part in a kite-coloring contest.

Garden admission is $5 for children 6 and older and seniors, $6 for adults, and free for children under 6.

Call 503-228-8131 for information or visit the garden's Web site at www.portlandchinese-garden.org.

Ñ Tribune staff