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Ancient Chinese Fireworks

Medha Godbole Feb 12, 2020
The Chinese reportedly invented fireworks to scare away evil spirits. The Europeans, however, took the baton and surpassed them. What was this 'fiery' story all about? Read on to know more through this post.
The legend has it that one of the oldest civilization on earth was the inventor of fireworks. In addition to that, this civilization has many other inventions to its credit. One of them is fireworks.
Elementary, my dear friends, yes, the Chinese came up with the concept of fireworks, which is now an inevitable part of any major celebration in the world, from New Year celebrations to Diwali to Christmas to weddings and more.

Chinese Fireworks Invention History

The Legend

According to most experts in this field, fireworks were invented in China, in the 2nd century BC. The place where it happened was Liuyang. There is a story which is famous all over the world about a Chinese chef accidentally stumbling upon fireworks, thousands of years ago. He simply mixed 3 routine kitchen ingredients - salt petre, sulfur and charcoal.
By mistake he ignited these three. He also realized that if this is burnt in a bamboo shot, there is considerable explosion. Initially these were used for fun. Later on it was observed that the sound these explosions created may work for warding off evil spirits.
Gradually, it came to be used for auspicious occasions like wedding, religious ceremonies and to celebrate victory and achievements. It was later on that Chinese came to know that this powder can be used as rocket fuel. This is called a pyrotechnic composition.
In another incident, Li Tian ignited a bamboo tube filled with gun powder and scared off the ghost of an evil dragon which a prime minister to the king of the Tang dynasty had killed. The ghost came back to haunt but was shooed off, thanks to Li Tian. He was called founder of fire crackers for this and an incident which happened before in ancient China.

Ancient Chinese Fireworks and Gunpowder

The earlier point mentioned how the Chinese got to know that the powder having a mixture of salt petre, sulfur and charcoal could also be used as rocket fuel. This led them to making gunpowder out of this mixture. They began experimenting with tubes filled with gunpowder. Then bamboo tubes filled with this powder were attached to arrows and shot using bows.
Another major step came when it was observed that even without deliberately launching them, the bamboo tubes with gun powder gave the desired impetus. In short the gun powder tubes were enough to launch the arrows.
This is how rocket was conceptualized. There was a Kai keng battle, in which the Chinese used this against the Mongolians. After this battle, in around 1232, Mongols started producing this on their own. They even sold it to other regions.
There is another interesting anecdote that there was a Chinese official who wanted to see how can these rockets be used for transportation. Hence, with some help, he assembled a rocket-powdered flying chair. Moreover, there were 2 large kites and the kites had 47 fire arrow rockets.
On the d-day, Wan Hu himself sat on the chair and asked the rockets to be lighted. 47 assistants went ahead to light the rockets. There was a huge roar, with enormous clouds of smoke. When things became visible again, neither Wan Hu nor his flying chair were visible.
They had disappeared. It is all a speculation and actually no one knows what happened. If it actually happened, there is a major possibility that the chair was blown to pieces. Later on as the technology developed, it spread all over the world and then Europeans and Americans took it over.
China has always been the center of amazing creations and inventions. Fireworks was another one of those! This is where I sign off!