Gunpower Along with the silk and paper, gunpowder is another invention by Chinese and the Silk Road helped it spread to the west. The dating of gunpowder is as early as 850 A.D. This invention seems to have been discovered in China by accident – by alchemists seeking the elixir of immortality. This earliest account reported the experiment: “some have heated together the saltpeter, sulfure and carbon of charcoal with honey; smoke and flames result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house burnt down.”
The gunpowder used for military purpose was first recorded in 919 A.D. By the 11th century, explosive bombs filled with gunpowder and fired from catapults were introduced and used in China. The words “fire cannon”, “rocket”, “missile” and “fireball” appeared time and again in the official Song history as well as two other books written during the same period. The first detailed description of using “firing cannon” in warfare was in connection with a battle fought in 1126 when the Song army used it against the invading Nuchens. The so-called fire cannon was a tube made oif bamboo filled with gunpowder which, when fired, threw a flaming missile towards the enemy. Since the barrel was made of bamboo, the f lying missile could not cover a long distance. According to a description of a battle scene in 1132, it took two persons to carry a “fire cannon”, and the cannons were fired from a moving platform after it had been moved close to the wall of the besieged city.
The Chinese invention of gunpowder never went much beyond its crudest form, and it was abandoned as a military weapon shortly afterwards. It reached Japan, Islam and then Europe in the 13th century and the Arabs improved gunpowder for military use. In 1280, the Syrian al-Hasan ar-Rammah wrote the Book of Fighting on Horseback and with War Engines. Herein introduced a rocket device, which he called “Chinese arrow.” The early account of gunpowder in Europe was recorded by English philosopher Roger Bacon in the 13th century. One century later the Arabs used it to attack the Spanish town Baza and the very next year in 1326 Florence ordered the manufacturing of cannon and cannon balls. From Italy the making of gunpowder soon spread to other European countries, and by the 1350s it had become an effective weapon on the battlefield.
Origin of Gun The Chinese adapted their primitive catapults to eventually develop a true gun with a metal barrel, gunpowder and a projectile by the 12th century. It is believed that the first gun was found in the early 1970s at Pan-la-ch’eng-tzu village, Manchuria, and dated to around 1290 A.D.