Rockets of Ancient China
China has always been hailed as the hometown of ancient
rockets, which was made by ancient scientists via applying the counterforce
produced by ignited gunpowder.
Through longtime evolvement combined with the theory and research of natural
science, the ancient rockets finally turned into the modern launch vehicles,
which are indispensable to the development of aerospace exploration.
The word "rocket" appeared as early as in the third century during the Three
Kingdoms period (220-280). In 228, the Wei State took the lead by applying a
torch to each arrow in an attempt to guard Chencang (in today's Baoji City of
North China's Shannxi Province) against the invading troops led by Zhuge Liang,
the prime minister of the Shu State.
Hao Zhao, the Wei general, used fire arrows to burn down the cloud ladders
(mobile siege ladders) of the Shu troops, and was therefore able
to defend Chencang. Thus the word rocket, meaning fire arrow, came into
existence, referring to the inflammable materials attached to the end of an
arrow, which was mainly used as a weapon to set a fire.
By the late 10th century in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Chinese had
adapted gunpowder to rockets. To make such an arrow, first a paper
tube was made; then the gunpowder was put inside the tube, which was then
attached to an arrow to be launched by a bow. Those were the first and most
primitive rockets in the history of humankind.
Later, improvements were made on such arrows. For example, the gunpowder was
directly carried inside an arrow, and the thunderous sound from the explosion of
the gunpowder could frighten away the enemy.