Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Chinese Invented It: Gunpowder & Fireworks

Gunpowder is one of the Four Great Inventions, along with the compass, paper and printing. These inventions are celebrated in the Chinese culture for their historical and far ranging impact.

Invented in the 9th century, the chemical combination for gunpowder was discovered searching for an elixir for immortality. The alchemist mixed saltpeter with charcoal and sulfur (and honey), and this mixture exploded when exposed to a flame, burning down the house in which the experiment was being done. 

Photo Credit: Harold Neal
By the 10th century, this discovery led to fireworks and firecrackers, used during many celebrations, often to frighten away evil spirits. Gunpowder was also used to create various weapons, such as bombs, landmines and flamethrowers. They also used it to fight the Mongols in the form of miniature exploding rockets propelled toward the enemy.

Here's a short video created by SciShow that explains the science behind gunpowder (in an entertaining way):

So next time you watch a fireworks display, or enjoy playing with sparklers - you can credit the Chinese. 

You can also make decorative firecrackers with instructions on our earlier post here.

You can learn more about the Four Great Inventions with our earlier posts:


  1. My two year old has not liked the 'naughty bangs' (as she calls all the fireworks which have been going off every night here just recently - it's Guy Fawkes at the moment over in the UK and is very noisy until very late at night!)

    1. "Naughty bangs"! That's so cute! Hope you're enjoying Guy Fawkes!


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