Ha Yi Qi of Beijing has a peculiarly Chinese dilemma.
A fourth generation kitemaker, Ha (profiled in Journal issue No. 12) by tradition is expected to pass on his flourishing gift-item factory business to a direct descendent. But because of the one-child rule in modern day China, and because his one child is a daughter, and because women by tradition don’t run big businesses like Ha’s works which employs 100 people, he has a dilemma.
He says he has three choices: Train his daughter Ha Yi (Yi pronounced “Eee” and meaning No. 1), age 13, to succeed him, or arrange for her to marry a boy he can train, or recruit an apprentice to teach who he then adopts as his successor.
Ha has already tried the last. “Unfortunately, the boy didn’t have sufficient skill,” he says. Few would, since Ha at 50 is a great master. “It takes five years to learn the basics of kitemaking,” says Ha, “ten years to become an expert.” He defines an expert as one who profoundly understands Chinese culture, has all-around kitemaking skills including a knowledge of aerodynamics, is able to produce high quality art, and commits himself to kiting as a lifetime vocation.