Chinese Crossbow and other Inventions (2/4)

July 31, 2010

The invention of gunpowder did not come from weapons makers but from alchemists. Chinese alchemy has a long tradition that is interwoven with other areas of learning.

There was no clear line between alchemy and politics.  In Chinese, the word for politics and finding a cure meant the same thing.

All Chinese alchemists had sulfur, charcoal and saltpeter. They just hadn’t combined them. Since saltpeter is white and many other powders used by China’s alchemist were white, there was a simple test to make sure.  If a small amount of the saltpeter were heated in a charcoal fire, there would be a purple flame.

The first account of the discovery of gunpowder comes from about 850 AD.  Soon after, they envisioned new kinds of weaponry.  By the 11th century AD, there were gunpowder weapons—crude rifles, cannons, etc.

The first gun or “fire lance” was produced in 905 AD. The next innovation was to add bullets to the fire lance.

Go to Chinese Crossbow and other Inventions – Part 3 or return to the Chinese Crossbow and other Inventions Part 1

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

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