There is a critical link between the fireworks of the Yuan Dynasty of China and its warfare. That link is the discovery of gunpowder. As true Chinese, the Emperor and his people enjoyed the elaborate fireworks displays during their celebrations, especially the Lunar New Year, when they ritualistically used fireworks to chase away the evil spirit, Nian, so that their people would have healthy crops and be happy and prosperous all year.
The existence of gunpowder, however, was too much of a temptation for the Chinese military to pass by. They saw the potential for a tremendous advantage over the enemy armies that were continually threatening the empire’s borders. The earlier weapons were actual outgrowths of the “bursting bamboo” firecrackers that were used in the celebrations. Once the bamboo was replaced with a paper housing to hold the gunpowder, the military came up with several creative designs for weapons that were easier to handle and hit their target. One of the fiercest was the fire lance. This weapon had a paper tube filled with gunpowder attached to the one end of a long shaft. When lit and thrown like a javelin, this fire lance became a frightening flame thrower.
The first shooting weapon was also invented in the Yuan Dynasty, between 1271 and 1368 AD. It had a powder chamber that the warriors could refill with gunpowder, then tamp down. Its “bullets” were stones. Instead of a trigger, it just had a wick. They would light the wick, point and shoot. Very crude and clumsy, but it worked.
*For Images of Yuan Dynasty Guns, click on here.
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