The Chinese and the Art of Explosion

By | July 1, 2019

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Folk artists perform molten iron fireworks at Taierzhuang ancient city of China. (Photo by Gao Qimin/VCG via Getty Images)

This Fourth of July holiday, as we all look into the night sky and oooh and ahhh at the breathtaking fireworks displays, let’s take a moment to honor the Chinese alchemists who, while trying to develop a potion to extend the human lifespan into eternity, hit upon an explosive breakthrough. Their new creation—gunpowder—changed history and changed how we in the United States celebrate our nation’s independence. 

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The first firecrackers were made with bamboo. (

The Chinese Liked to Make a Bang

Long before they developed gunpowder, Chinese people were enamored by explosives. They toyed around with natural firecrackers. These were essentially just stalks of freshly cut bamboo. They discovered that, when tossed into a fire, the water droplets in the hollow center of the bamboo would heat to steam and burst out of the plant with a small explosion, not unlike a popcorn kernel exploding. The ancient Chinese loved their bamboo firecrackers. They thought that the little explosions kept the evil spirits away