The Origin of Fireworks
The Chinese had long sought to make themselves immortal and they put much effort into a discovery of that elusive goal. Taoist sages believed that human beings were earthly deities; that they could cultivate their spirit, mind and bodies by Qinong. This "inner cultivation', they thought, could cause them to become supernatural beings that would bring about long life or ever attain eternal life. Coupled with this pursuit was as early stage of chemistry called Alchemy. The alchemists thought that they could "refine the sand and base ore into gold and other magical medicine that would never rot.'' The 'outer refining' techniques of these alchemists sought to find the elixir of life. Early in the Warring States (457 BC-221 BC) the alchemists presented the longevity medicine to Emperor Jing. In the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-907 AD), alchemists had the support of the imperial court and religion. However, their importance diminished in the Song Dynasty (960-1271 AD) and disappeared altogether in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD). Through the alchemical experiments of these early scientists, many chemical and medical discoveries were made. The invention of the compass and printing ink, two of the 'Four Great Inventions of China', emerged during this time. Arguably, the most important contribution of this era was the discovery of gunpowder. Since its invention, gunpowder has been widely used in fields ranging from medicine to defense to entertainment. This began its use in the production of the very first fireworks. There are many opinions about the time of the invention of fireworks. Some think they were developed in the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581-907 AD), but others insist there were no fireworks until the Northern Song Dynasty (Tenth Century AD). In the Southern Song Dynasty (Twelfth Century AD) there was rapid development. The Invention of the Firecracker
n the Han Dynasty (206-220 BC) it is said that people would roast bamboo to produce a load sound that was intended to disperse ghosts and apparitions. In the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-581 AD) this kind of sound was not only used to dispel evil but also to pray for happiness and prosperity. At the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, the first paper tube crackers, filled with gunpowder, were produced. Crackers strung together by hemp rope, known as 'hundred-break' crackers, appeared at the end of the Southern Dynasty (fifth Century AD). Li Tian is credited as the originator of the cracker industry.Li Tian, the Founder There was an emperor named Li Shiming in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). His Prime Minister, Wei Zhou, killed an evil dragon, which then came back to haunt him. He was greatly vexed and did not know what to do. Li Tian ignited a bamboo tube that was filled with a pyrotechnic composition. The ghost was frightened by the loud bang and went away. After that, the people called Li Tian the founder of crackers and every April 18th they offer sacrifices to him. It was said that in the Zhenguan period of the Tang Dynasty, in the east of Hunan Province there were floods and droughts every year. Li Tian went to Liu Yang and was struck by the people's poverty. He set off fireworks to disperse the evil, after which, the people lived and worked in peace and prosperity. In the Song Dynasty (980-1271 AD) people set up a temple to worship Li Tian.The Development of the Firecracker At the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), beginning of the Tang (618-907 AD), the famous alchemist and medicine man Sun Si Miao refined ore in a cave near the eastern side of Liu Yang, Hunan. He developed crackers and later, fireworks. His tools and workbench have been preserved to this day.At the end of the Northern Song and the beginning of the Southern Song dynasties, firecrackers made rapid progress along side the development of social, economic and chemical sciences. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) firecrackers were presented to the palace as articles of...
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