Unique weapon of the Ming Dynasty — Huo Jian Liu (火箭溜)

Ming Chinese Rocket Arquebus
Drawing of a Huo Jian Liu (highlighted), from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.
China was the first civilisation in the world to utilise rocket weaponry in warfare. Early rocket was nothing more than a simple, black powder-filled paper tube attached to the shaft of an arrow, hence the name Huo Jian (火箭, lit. 'Fire arrow'). Although devastating, primitive unguided rocket cannot be aimed like a crossbow or arquebus due to the limitation of its launching platform, and thus has low accuracy.

Chinese attempted to solve this issue by developing various types of multiple rocket launchers that launch large numbers of rockets at once. While this "spray and pray" approach alleviate the accuracy problem somewhat, it was very wasteful.

Huo Jian Liu presented a much more refined solution to early rocket's accuracy issue. Developed by Zhao Shi Zhen (趙士楨) in the sixteenth century, Huo Jian Liu is, for all intent and purpose, an arquebus that shoots rocket instead of the usual lead ball. Huo Jian Liu not only allows its gunner to aim his weapon for greater accuracy, it also has greater range, less recoil, and faster reload speed than typical matchlock gun. On top of that, the launcher itself is cheaper to manufacture, as it does not require a gun barrel (this is, of course, offset by more costly rocket ammunition).

To prevent the backblast of the rocket from harming the gunner, the matchlock mechanism of Huo Jian Liu is mounted farther away from the gunner, and a gun shield is installed at the back of the stock.

Regrettably, this invention failed to catch the attention of Ming government, and never went beyond the prototype stage.


  1. I have just stumbled across this blog, researching a Ming army project of my own. Please keep up the good work, the Ming should be a more popular force in wargaming. I am definitely bookmarking this page.

  2. Thank you, I will surely dig out more information as time goes on.

  3. Thank you for the reply. I look forward to seeing what comes next.