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Gunpowder: One of China's Four Great Inventions

Source: Science and Technology Daily| 2022-01-06 09:31:42| Author: BI Weizi

By BI Weizi

    Gunpowder, the world's first explosive, is a substance that can burn rapidly and reliably under the action of appropriate external energy, and at the same time generate a large amount of high-temperature gas.

    Gunpowder is made from a mixture of sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal. As early  as  the  Neolithic  era,  ancient Chinese learned about charcoal when firing pottery and used it as a fuel. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties, charcoal was widely used in metallurgy. Charcoal produces less ash than firewood and burns hotter, making it a better fuel.

    The invention of gunpowder can be traced back to the 9th century, when Chinese alchemists made "immortal pills" that was imagined to keep a person living forever. Of course, they did not find the drug, but gradually invented the formula of gunpowder in the process of refining.

    Gunpowder was first used to make fireworks during festivals and some other major events. It was later used as an explosive substance in the military, such as cannons and fire -arrows. Cannons and muskets were already quite sophisticated in China during the Song Dynasty, making China's technology a world leader.

    Chinese gunpowder advanced the course of world history. Friedrich Engels spoke highly of China's role in the invention of gunpowder saying, "It has now been proved beyond doubt that gunpowder was transmitted from China to the Arabs through India, and from the Arabs to Europe through Spain, together with gunpowder weapons."

    Gunpowder shook up the feudal rule in Western Europe, and the power of the chivalrous class, supported by their cold weapons, declined. The invention of gunpowder greatly advanced the course of history, and was one of the important pillars of the European Renaissance and Reformation.


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