14 May 2023

Chinese fire gourd

Chong Zhen Huo Hu Lu (衝陣火葫蘆, lit. 'Phalanx-charging fire gourd')

Chinese fire gourd fire lance
Drawing of a Chong Zhen Huo Hu Lu, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Chong Zhen Huo Hu Lu is an unusual weapon which is essentially a gourd-shaped iron "gun barrel" mounted on a six chi long wooden pole. Intended to be paired with a weaponised shield, this handgonne/fire lance hybrid is loaded with both lead pellets as well as incendiary gunpowder that generates poisonous smoke as it burns, and is said to be effective against both infantry and cavalry. 

A pole-less version of this weapon is famously used by several prominent characters and their subordinates in the Chinese classical novel 'Water Margin', which points to an early Ming origin for the weapon.

Dui Hei Shao Ren Huo Hu Lu (對黑燒人火葫蘆, lit. 'Night-opposing, enemy-burning fire gourd')

Chinese fire gourd weapon
Drawing of a Dui Hei Shao Ren Huo Hu Lu, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
A one-use, self-defence flamethrower designed for concealable carry, Dui Hei Shao Ren Huo Hu Lu is made out of actual dried calabash shell, heavily padded with a mixture of dirt and salt water wrapped in a layer of cloth (presumably for thermal insulation), then lacquered. The gourd bottle is filled with a mixture of ash, saltpetre, and sulfur, then carefully sealed together with smoldering tinder in a way that is reminiscence of Chinese flame stick. This way, the weapon doesn't need a touch hole nor ignited separately before use, as merely unsealing the bottle will cause searing flame to jut out from its opening.

Some Chinese texts, as well as Joseph Needham's 'Science and Civilisation in China', erroneously record the weapon as "Dui Ma Shao Ren Huo Hu Lu (對燒人火葫蘆, lit. 'Cavalry-opposing enemy-burning fire gourd')", although it's clear from description that this weapon was not specifically designed for anti-cavalry use.

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