Gunpowder: a Circular Journey

The goal of the alchemist has always been mysterious. These early scientists strove to make gold from lead, or discover the secret of immortality. Such experiments by Chinese alchemists in the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) would eventually lead to the creation of one of the most important inventions ever created by man. Their experiments would create gunpowder, the substance that makes bullets fly and fireworks explode in magical colors.

The secret of gunpowder passed from its birthplace in China, across the deserts of Central Asia, through the empires of Persia and Byzantium, and finally into the kingdoms of Europe.

Journey with us as we see how ancient alchemists mixed powders and potions, stumbling upon the fateful concoction. We will see how gunpowder changed the course of history. In its journey the substance was itself changed. When the invention was returned to China it was forever altered into a much more destructive substance than the Chinese had invented themselves. Follow us as we explore the mystery of gunpowder's circular journey.

To follow the gunpowder's journey, click on one of the maps below

China    Islamic World  Europe    Return to China

Transmission of Technology / Bibliography  / Teacher Section / Section Authors / Focus on Gunpowder by R. Bradeen