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Gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists seeking an elixir of immortality. They began to recognize the characteristics of salpeter and sulfur, two ingredients essential for gunpowder. Between 300- 650 AD several recipes were written about inflammable mixtures. Some historians date the invention of gunpowder at 850 AD when a Taoist book warned of three specific elixir formulas as too dangerous to experiment.
Around 1040 AD Tseng Kung-Liang published a true gunpowder formula for the first time in history. However, this powder was not explosive but rather burned with a sudden combustion and was used in flame-throwers. Explosive gunpowder was definitely used in the beginning of the thirteenth century.
Wei Boyang was a famous alchemist that wrote a book called Book of the Kinship of the Three with enormous amount of information.
The invention of gunpowder has had very far reaching ramifications. Throughout history, it is clear that countries that had weapons and used gunpowder were able to dominate during times of war. Just having weapons that used gun powder was enough of a threat to warrant off potential enemies.
The first textual evidence of a proto-gunpowder formula is contained in a work dated about 850. So far as we know, Essentials of the Military Arts records the first true gunpowder formula and describes how to produce it on a large scale. Its first use in warfare was as an incendiary, or fire-producing, compound.
Gunpowder was of many different types. Chinese texts identify blinding powder, flying powder, violent powder, poison powder, bruising and burning powder and smoke-screen powder.
Starting from the Tang or the beginning of the Song, small packages of gunpowder wrapped in paper or bamboo were attached to arrows, which marked the first use of gunpowder in war (see the illustration below). These would be lit with a fuse of some kind, so that the arrow became an incendiary, intended to set targets afire.
In the group of projectiles below, the different styles correspond to two different types of javelin-propulsion methods. Note the arrow with the gunpowder chamber.
[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-2-22 10:44 PM ]