Gunpowder was discovered by accident in China a thousand years ago and it was called fire medicine. While mixing ingredients to find an elixir for immortality, Chinese scientists stumbled on the formula. Fireworks and rockets came first to scare away evil spirits.
In fact, several ingredients for gunpowder were in wide use for medicinal purposes during the Spring and Autumn Period of China’s history (722 – 481 BC).
Sulfur is the main ingredient of gunpowder, and gunpowder was first developed during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). During the Northern Sung Dynasty, in 1044 AD, the book “Essentials of Military Art” published several formulas for gunpowder production.
Asian Education reports, “During the Song dynasty, gunpowder technology was further refined for military purposes and many kinds of firearms were invented. In the year 1000, Tang Fu designed and manufactured a gunpowder arrow, gunpowder ball, and barbed gunpowder packages and donated them to the Song emperor. In 1132, the fire lance was introduced with gunpowder in a long bamboo tube. When fired, flames were projected on the enemy. In 1259, a fire-spitting lance was enhanced with bullets. When fired, bullets were ejected with the flames.”
One theory says that the knowledge of gunpowder went to Europe along the Silk Road around the start of the 13th century, hundreds of years after being discovered in China. It is also ironic, that Britain and France used advanced gunpowder weapons to defeat China during the 19th century in the two Opium Wars.
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