Although it's unclear who specifically made the first kite, the earliest recorded reference to kites comes in the work of Chinese philosopher Mozi, who lived around 470-391 BCE. An early prototype design for a wooden kite appears in a Mozi text.
According to China Highlights, Mozi's kite prototype was preserved and passed down by another contemporary philosopher, Lu Ban. These earliest kites were built of light wood and formed in the shape of a bird. These kites typically served military purposes, such as sending distress signals to neighboring towns. It wasn't until nearly one thousand years later that kites built of paper and silk began to appear. These lighter kites were the first to transcend their military origins and serve as leisure items.