Chinese Gunpowder Invention
China was a home of alchemy. As a by-product of alchemy, the invention gunpowder was due to the ancient Chinese Taoists’ attempt to make “pills immortality” or elixir and to turn cheap metals into gold. In their pursuit impossibilities, the chemists and alchemists found that saltpeter, sulphur and chartcoal powder mi~od together in the right proportion and heated was explosive. The date of this discovery is unknown since the alchemists liked to operate in secret. The first to record the method of making gunpowder was Sun Simiao, a well-known pharmacologist of the Tang Dynasty, who also tried to make “pills of immortality”.
Originally, gunpowder was used in China for making fireworks and fire cradlers for the sake of amusement. Gunpowder was not used for rock-blasting and military purposes until the end of Tang Dynasty and at the beginning of the Five Dynasties, thus bringing about a revolution to the making of firearms. As far back as 904, besieged cities were attacked with what was then called “shooting fire” or “flying fire”, that is, tying a packet of powder to the shaft of an arrow, igniting the fuse and shooting the arrow so as to cause an explosion and set enemy barracks on fire when the target was hit. During the Song period, the making and use of gunpowder reached a new level. Different formulas were already in use for the making of different kinds of powder as a result of constant experiments and weapons involving the use of gunpowder, including the thorn fire ball, the smoky fire bail and the cannon, were invented. Towards the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, weapons with even higher explosive power were made, such as “thunderbolt cartoon”, “sky shaking cannon”, ect. The Song, Jin and Yuan armies all used these weapons in war.
In the 13th century the Yuan troops used various kinds of weapons in the war with the Arab countries in Central Asia, spreading firearms and their manufacture to these countries. Arab military primers of that time recorded the primitive guns and hand- grenades used by the Mongols. In this way. gunpowder was introduced to the Arab world. During the medieval times Europeans translated many Arabic books from which they learned about gunpowder. In 1325 the Arabs attacked a Spanish city using a projector to fire “flaming balls” which sounded like thunder. The Westerners became familiar with gunpowder and started studying and manufacturing it. Some European countries began to make gunpowder weapons with methods they had learned from the Arabians. By the 15th century cannons using gunpowder were being invented by the Europeans.
It was a tremendous impetus to the progress of European history, because the application of gunpowder made feudal separation impossible, thus speedily leading feudalism to its doom in Europe. The invention of gunpowder meant a far-reaching technological revolution that transformed heat energy into mechanic energy, greatly promoting the progress of the global civilization.