An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Huolong shenqi zhenfa 火龍神器陣法

Jan 15, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Huolong shenqi zhenfa 火龍神器陣法 "Fighting methods with the divine weapons of the fire dragon" is a military treatise on firearms written during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Jiao Yu 焦玉 xxx. The book was finished in 1412, but later prints include material apparently added at a later date. It is relatively brief, but includes 47 valuable illustrations.

Figure 1. Grape shot gun
A bamboo tube of a "poisonous dragon spitting divine fire" (du long pen huo shen tong 毒龍噴神火筒) filled with gunpowder and grape shot used during the attack of cities. The construction was apparently large enough to surpass city walls.

The book describes the fabrication of gunpowder, different types of firearms, their functions and use. Concerning the production of gunpowder, there had been made successes in comparison to the description in the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) military encyclopaedia Wujing zongyao 武經總要. In the Huolong shenqi zhenfa, only four components are used instead of 14 components in earlier times, and the share of nitre (xiao 硝) was increased from 49 per cent to 72, and that of sulphur (liu 硫) lowered from 25 per cent to 16. The share of charcoal (mutan 木炭) was 11 per cent. These are the percentages for cannon gunpowder. For muskets, the adequate percentages are 77, 8, and 15.

Figure 2. Poisonous gas pipe
This poisonous gas pipe (du wu shen yan pao 毒霧神煙砲), made of bamboo (?) segments, was able to deliver the gas while passing underneath a creek or moat (du shui 渡水).

There are three different kinds of firearms described, namely combustive ones, explosive ones, and barrel weapons. Among the combustive types, many were already known during the Song period, including such producing smoke, or such spreading poisonous aerosols or gases. Among the explosives are grenades or various types of mines. Typical firearms with barrel are heavy muskets and light cannons, but also rockets. During battle, the use of firearms dependent on weather and territory, but also on the actual situation. There are long-range firearms (cannons, muskets, rockets), and short-range firearms (lances etc. with burning tips).

Beijing dongfang shoucangjia xiehui 北京東方收藏家協會, ed. (1996). Zonghua shoucang da cidian 中華收藏大辭典 (Beijing: Beijing Yanshan chubanshe), 407.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1627.
Li Zhengfu 李正夫 (1993). "Huolon shenqi zhenfa 火龍神器陣法", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan 中華百科要覽 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 284.
Sun Deqi 孫德騏 (1989). "Huolong shenqi zhenfa 火龍神器陣法", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Junshi 軍事 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 419.
Zeng Kang 曾抗 (1992). "Huolong shenqi zhenfa 火龍神器陣法", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Keji 科技卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 821.