The repeating Chinese crossbow led to the modern machine gun

April 11, 2018

Vendian.org reports, “The crossbow was invented in Ancient China during the Zhou dynasty, around the year 700 BC. … They had a range of up to 650 feet. The crossbow had a firing mechanism, which was so complicated that it would have been nearly impossible for an enemy to understand how it worked, thus reducing the chance that the crossbow could be copied by hostile civilizations. …  And, in the eleventh century, rapid-firing crossbows were developed that could fire 20 arrows in only 15 seconds.”

The mechanism that made this Chinese eleventh-century repeating crossbow work was the forerunner to the modern machine gun.

The Chinese also invented the stirrup around the fourth century A.D. Before that invention, all of the people on earth rode horses without stirrups and staying on horseback while fighting was a challenge. Scientific American says the “Invention of the stirrup may rival that of the longbow and gunpowder.”

Thanks to stirrups, the horse became a more stable platform for war. Prior to the stirrup, it was common for a man to ride about seven miles a day. After the stirrup, that distance was extended to as much as seventy miles a day.

The invention of the stirrup along with the repeating crossbow created powerful weapons. The Chinese could also manufacture items in mass, quickly and efficiently. The Chinese used pottery molds to accomplish this—even to build the advanced trigger mechanism for the crossbow. When it came to cast iron, the Chinese were a thousand years ahead of the world.

However, by the time of the Sung Dynasty, the world was catching up because China’s enemies were stealing their technology.  It’s ironic that today, many in the West accuse the Chinese of stealing innovations. If so, China is only doing what was done to them centuries ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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