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30-Jun-2018 14:01

The first confirmed reference to what can be considered gunpowder in China occurred more than three hundred years later during the Tang dynasty, first in a formula contained in the Taishang Shengzu Jindan Mijue (太上聖祖金丹秘訣) in 808, and then about half a century later in a Taoist text known as the Zhenyuan miaodao yaolüe (真元妙道要略).The first formula was a combination of six parts sulfur to six parts saltpeter to one part birthwort herb, and the Taoist text warned against an assortment of dangerous formulas, one of which corresponds with gunpowder: "Some have heated together sulfur, realgar (arsenic disulphide), and saltpeter with honey; smoke [and flames] result, so that their hands and faces have been burnt, and even the whole house burned down." Alchemists called this discovery fire medicine ("huoyao" 火藥), and the term has continued to refer to gunpowder in China into the present day, a reminder of its heritage as a side result in the search for longevity increasing drugs.The so-called Gunpowder Empires of the early modern period consisted of the Mughal Empire, Safavid Empire, and Ottoman Empire.The use of gunpowder in warfare during the course of the 19th century diminished due to the invention of smokeless powder.

This was probably because some weapons were deemed too onerous or ineffective to deploy.At this point the formula contained too little saltpeter (about 50%) to be explosive, but the mixture was highly flammable, and contemporary weapons reflected this in their deployment as mainly shock and incendiary weapons.