How Is Gunpowder Made In Ancient China?

Gun powder also goes by the name black powder and is made with materials that burn rapidly and explode as a propellant. To distinguish between Gun Powder and other forms of black powder, you will notice that other forms of black powder have a coarser texture, while the gun powder has a finer and pure texture.

Gunpowder Meaning

Gunpowder is an explosive powder normally used in guns and in blasting. It can also be defined as the various kinds of powders used in guns as propelling charges.

What is Gunpowder Made of?

Gun powder is made from a combination of potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon/Charcoal. The main ingredient used in the making of the gun powder, “Saltpeter,” had been used by the Chinese for medicinal purposes. However, since it was discovered to cause fires it was then used for warfare.

History of Gunpowder

Who Invented Gunpowder in Ancient ChinaAlchemist Wei Boyang who is believed to have come from the Tang Dynasty discovered saltpeter which is the main ingredient used when making gun powder. And with further research and experimentation, saltpeter was combined with sulfur and charcoal. Much to the alchemist’s surprise, the combination of the three powders had outstanding flammable and explosive qualities when ignited.

Notable is that gunpowder was initially used by the Chinese people for fireworks, and it was also adopted for use in war. In Ancient China the effectiveness of the gun powder was first seen when it was used on Mongols. To ensure effectiveness an arrow was affixed with a tube of gun powder, it ignited and propelled itself over to the enemies.

Remember that as the gun powder was invented it was meant to be a portion of life but ended up being the main ingredient for death.

When Was Gunpowder Invented- gun powder was first invented in China during the first millennium AD.

What Dynasty Was Gunpowder InventedThe earliest reference for gun powder was made in 142 AD which was during the Eastern Han Dynasty.

When Was Gunpowder Invented in Ancient China- gun powder is among the four great inventions from China and it came into existence during the late Tang Dynasty. Notable is that the earliest recorded chemical formula for the gun powder goes as far back as the Song Dynasty (960-1270).

Why Was Gunpowder Invented- gunpowder was originally developed to be used for medicinal purposes by the Taoists. Information about the experimental medicine’s origin is available in its Chinese name Huoyao and which can be translated to mean fire medicine. Important to note is that the Chinese had knowledge of saltpeter since the mid-1st century AD. And that it was produced in Shandong, Sichuan, and Shanxi provinces. Saltpeter and sulfur were also used in medicine combinations in China

Later on, the Song military engineers used gunpowder in siege warfare and which encouraged the creation of the earliest types of bombs, cannons, rockets, and mines. In the earliest times gun powder was used for recreational purposes, and the emperors, therefore, created the gunpowder to be used for the fireworks display. The reason for the above is that the Chinese believed that the gunpowder could scare away evil spirits.

Who Brought Gunpowder to Europe- Europeans got gun powder from the Mongols of China in the 13th Century. Besides, gun powder was highly used in Europe in the middle ages thanks to the extensive use of explosives and guns by the Mongols. The above is however still a theory because it is also believed that the Europeans could have gotten the gun powder through interaction with the Arab Muslim world.

Notable is that the Muslims are believed to have acquired the knowledge of gun powder in the time ranging between 1240 and 1280. At this time there were written texts that documented the procedure for purifying salt pepper. The texts were comprehensive as they also contained descriptions of gunpowder incendiaries.

The author of the text used terms that suggested he had derived the knowledge from Chinese texts, meaning that the knowledge of gun powder came with the Chinese. The Muslim author incorporated in the extensive texts up to 107 gun powder recipes, 22 of which were to be used specially on rockets.

If we, however, stick with the theory of the Mongol invasion. It has been recorded in the books of history that the Mongols had become a violent society and their constant conquest and invasions facilitated the spread of the gun powder to other parts of the world.

What’s more, it is believed that the technology reached the Middle East by the 13th century and during this time both the crusaders and Traders had knowledge of its existence. After the gun powder had landed in Europe it was upgraded to work even better. The Europeans then started adding liquid to the mixture, and the gun powder then formed a paste that would later dry up and was ground into balls. The resulting balls were branded “cornered powder.”

The European invention greatly enhanced the use of bombs and guns, as the dried paste derived from the gun powder ensured that almost all the ingredients incorporated in its manufacture exploded as one. Ancient texts also mention the use of gun powder weapons by the Mongols, in China against the Song, Jin, and during the invasion of Japan.

How Gunpowder Was Invented

The gun powder was invented by accident because the initial objective of the Alchemist was not to invent a gun powder rather an elixir of immortality. The Chinese Alchemist instead discovered saltpeter, and with advanced experimentation but now using charcoal and sulfur he ended up inventing the gun powder. The father of alchemy, later on, wrote about the substance with gun powder-like properties.

How Gunpowder was made

Gunpowder was made by mixing charcoal, potassium nitrate, and elemental sulfur with the exact ratios varying from country to country. There are texts that provide encyclopedia references to different gun powder combinations and which included petrochemicals, honey, and garlic. It was, however, noted that the combined chemicals in the text had not incorporated enough amounts of saltpeter that would enable the creation of explosives. However, it contained at least 50% of the saltpeter that could cause fires.

What Is Gunpowder Used For In Ancient China

In ancient China Gun powder was used in warfare, to make it work, the Chinese wrapped small packages of gunpowder in paper and then attached it to arrows, and then lit it with a fuse. The Chinese also made bombs with gun powder, combined it with scrap iron, and with the aid of catapults they launched the weapons.

Why Was Gunpowder Invented

ancient chinese firearms

The gun powder was originally invented to be used by the Taoists for medicinal purposes, and its first use was during the warfare in 904 AD. However, there are no reliable texts documenting its use in warfare more so against the Tanguts, besides China was at peace during the 11th century.

Gun powder had, however, already been used on the fire arrows, since the 10th century. And the first military use of the gun powder has been recorded to be 904 where it was used as the incendiary projectile.

How the Gun Powder Worked

One thing to understand about the gun powder is that it does not detonate instead it burns quickly. The above effect works perfectly when the powder is used in a propellant device, more especially if one does not desire an action that would shatter the gun and proceed to harm the operator.

How Best Can Gun Powder Be Used?

Gun powder is best suited for bursting charges, blank rounds, rescue line launches, and in signaling flares. It can also be adopted for use in certain special effects. And it also works well when lifting shells, and in rockets as fuel.


The invention of the gun powder and the discovery that it could ignite, encountered a twist when it came to its use.  For the gun powder to work as an explosive, it was mandatory for all the ingredients to be measured precisely, so that the mixture could ignite and explode. Meaning that individuals who wanted to use the gun powder had to perfect on the formula that actually made it work. Thus according to the Arabian documents printed in the 13th century, the precise ratio was 1 part Sulfur, 9 parts Saltpeter, and 3 parts charcoal.

The use of the gun powered and its distribution across the globe can be solely credited to the Chinese. And while there might not be evidence of their constant use outside of China, there is clear evidence that it was in China and in the invasion of Japan. Gun Powder has over time undergone modification to enhance its functionality and this was seen when it landed in the hands of the Europeans. We must also note that there is enough evidence that supports the invention of the gun powder by the Chinese but the manner in which it was taken to the Western world is yet to be revealed.


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