Chinese Crossbow and other Inventions (3/4)

August 1, 2010

The first firearm was invented in China about one thousand years ago. It was made of bamboo, fired pebbles and had a range of about thirty yards.

Bamboo is strong, flexible and hollow in the center. It was perfect for the first crude gunpowder weapons.  Over time, bamboo was replaced with bronze, and the pebbles became cast-iron chips or pellets. In fact, the first bronze handgun dates to 12th century AD. It was about a foot long and weighed eight pounds.

From these early weapons came cannons.  Long before the rest of the world knew anything about heavy artillery, the Chinese were making strong, mobile cannons from bronze. Since the Chinese already had repeating crossbows, the next step was repeating cannons along with exploding artillery shells.

During the Ming Dynasty, in the 14th century, the Great Wall was equipped with more than 3,000 cannons. In Europe, the first cannons were still being developed. The Chinese also invented the hand grenade about a thousand years ago along with grenade launchers—the bow powered grenade.

A computer analysis demonstrated that China’s largest cannons could fire more than a third of a mile.  It would take centuries before Europeans could match the weaponry of China.

Go to  hinese Crossbow and Other Inventions – Part 4 or return to the Chinese Crossbow and other Inventions Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you ove a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love tory Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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