11 April 2015

Unique weapon of the Ming Dynasty — Huo Long Chu Shui (火龍出水)

Ming Chinese Fire Dragon Multistage Cluster Rocket
Drawing of a Huo Long Chu Shui, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Huo Long Chu Shui (火龍出水, lit. 'Fire Dragon Out of the Water') is perhaps the most well-known of ancient Chinese weapons. It is often hailed as the first ever multistage rocket as well as cluster munition rocket.

A Huo Long Chu Shui consists of several different parts: a body made out of bamboo tube, carved wooden dragon head and tail, four heavy rockets attached to the bamboo tube to provide propulsion, as well as several incendiary rocket submunition stored inside the bamboo tube. This rocket allegedly has a range of two to three li, and is useful as both long range siege weapon as well as coastal defence artillery.

MythBusters once conducted a test on a picture-accurate miniature reproduction of Huo Long Chu Shui, and came to the conclusion that the original design doesn't work at all. However, the Mythbusters failed to realise that the illustration of Huo Long Chu Shui, like that of Shen Huo Fei Ya (神火飛鴉), contains several errors and shouldn't be taken literally.


  1. was this thing ever used in actual battles?

  2. Do you think the original configuration would've more resembled the Mythbusters version?

    1. Personally I think it will be a three stage rocket with two motors for first and second stage, then smaller rocket arrow swarm as the final stage.

    2. Using 2 motors per stage makes it much more manageable than having to ignite 4 motors at once.

    3. Makes sense, I'm guessing all the stages should be in the "fuselage" of the rocket unlike the depictions?

    4. That will make it more reliable, but since it can't discard spent boosters like modern rocket I think the rocket motors still have to be put outside.


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