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Gunpowder & Firearms 火药

Source: www.cultural-china.com


Gunpowder is the first explosive substance mankind learnt to use and also one of the four great inventions of ancient China. The invention of gunpowder should in a way be attributed to alchemists of ancient China, who drew inspiration from the fire-ignition of pill-making process during which sulfur, niter and other substances were used. They subsequently created the formula for gunpowder. When the formula was in the hands of strategists, the gunpowder was turned into black powder used in warfare.

The military applications of gunpowder began at the end of the Tang Dynasty. According to record, there were siege-breaking battles using “flying fire” at that time. People used a stone-projector to send off lit gunpowder packs to burn the enemy. In the Song Dynasty, the government set up gunpowder workshops, where flammable or explosive weapons like "fire cannon", "rocket" and "missile" etc were produced in various periods. In 1,259 AD, something called “erupter” was introduced. It was a device with bamboo pipes, in which gunpowder was loaded. In the Yuan Dynasty, a weapon named bronze cannon came into being. In mid-16th century, a new type of rocket called “the Fire Dragon Issuing from the Water” was introduced. The rocket is regarded as the earliest ancestor of two-stage rockets. In the Ming Dynasty, there was a military rocket called “flying crow with magic fire” with rather strong explosive power. These primitive firearms propelled by gunpowder explosion demonstrated unprecedented power in warfare. They are the originators of modern-day weapons.

Gunpowder was also used in acrobat and puppet shows to decorate the stage and create a mysterious atmosphere. People of the Song Dynasty used gunpowder in stunning performances like spraying fire, invisiblizing stage characters and conjuring up things etc. The audience couldn’t help but marvel the magic.

In the 12th and 13th century, gunpowder was introduced to Arab countries before its journey to Greece and other European countries. Gunpowder put an end to the “cold weapon era” and ushered in a new chapter in war history, causing a far-reaching impact on the development of human history. Gunpowder was also used in other areas, such as the making of fireworks and firecrackers, making people's life more colorful.


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