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  Created in China>The Development of Chinese Military Affairs>Military Inventions
Rockets of Ancient China


An ancient rocket consisted of four parts: arrowhead, arrow barrel, arrow feather, and gunpowder tube. The gunpowder tubes, which were mostly made from bamboo tubes or paperboard, were filled with gunpowder, with one end closed and the other end open. A small hole was left for the blasting fuse. When ignited, the gunpowder would burn inside the tube, producing a large amount of gas, which, while shooting backwards at high speed, would produce enormous forward-propelling force.

This was believed to be the embryonic form of modern rockets. The gunpowder tube compared well with the modern propelling system, and the sharp arrowhead, with its piercing power of destruction, compared favorably to the warhead of a modern rocket. While the feather helped to stabilize the arrow, just like the modern stabilizing system, the barrel was similar to the body part of modern rockets.

After their appearance, the ancient rockets were widely adapted in military activities and folk entertainments. In the war between the Song, Jin and Yuan States between the 10th and 13th centuries, gunpowder weapons, such as fire guns, and flying fire cannons, were widely used. The then flying fire cannons, a primitive rocket weapon, were much similar to today's flamethrowers.

At the end of the 12th century, primitive rockets were greatly improved and widely employed in weaponry. During the Yuan (1271-1368) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, rocket weapons received further development, as many new types of rockets were invented, including Nine-dragonarrow and A-flock-of-bee arrow, which were very similar to the modern rockets.

TheMing Dynasty(1368-1644) witnessed significant development in Chinese rocketry, with many rockets propelled by the counterforce produced by ignited gunpowder used in military wars. In the early Ming Dynasty,Zhu Di(the fourth prince of the first Ming Emperor Taizu), who intended to seize state power, led his troops to fight those led by the reigning Emperor Jianwen and was attacked by a a-flock-of-bee fire arrow, which was the earliest record on the application of jet rockets in warfare. From then on, one-stage jet rockets were used more and more on a daily basis, including single-shot and multi-shot ones.

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