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 utilize rocket weaponry in warfare. Early rocket was nothing more than a simple tube filled with black powder propellant attached to the shaft of an arrow, hence the name Huo Jian (火箭, lit. 'Fire arrow'). Although devastating, a rocket couldn't be aimed like a bow, crossbow or arquebus, so its accuracy was bad.

Chinese attempted to solve this issue by developing various types of multiple rocket launchers, which could 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 rockets instead of the usual lead balls. It has greater range, less recoil, and faster reload speed than typical matchlock gun. 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 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.


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  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.