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The Invention of the First Gun: A Narrative of Challenge and Response in Song China (960AD-1279AD)

Sinvany, Benjamin Avichai Katz (2015)
Honors Thesis (67 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Andrade, Tonio
Committee Members: Ravina, Mark ; Chio, Jenny
Research Fields: History, Asia, Australia, and Oceania; History, Military; History, Medieval
Keywords: Gun; China; Song; Map; History; GIS; Hartwell; Iron; Gunpowder; Needham; Sichuan
Program: College Honors Program, History
Permanent url:


This thesis aims to provide a model with which to determine a likely date for the invention of the first gun. Utilizing maps I generated showing China in 1080 AD and 1200 AD depicting iron, copper, tin, and saltpeter resources and an analysis of conflict during the Song period this study aims to gain a clearer perspective on the development of gunpowder and the invention of the first gun. By making a distinction between scholars who favor a later date of invention around the year 1280 AD and scholars who favor an earlier date prior to the year 1200 AD I suggest the invention of the first gun is likeliest to have occurred between the years 1127 AD and 1234 AD. By considering the Song period as a Warring States period and examining resource distribution in the context of this warfare this project hopes to join in the debate on when the first gun was invented and support an earlier date for the invention of the first gun. I reach this conclusion by engaging with a geographic visualization of resource distribution and departing from a conventional gunpowder narrative that relies heavily on material artifacts.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

I. Introduction 1

II. Song Warring States Period (960-1127, 1127-1279) 9

III. The Birth of Gunpowder 15

i. Fire-Lance to True Gun 17

ii. Metal or Bamboo: a discussion of the Tuhuoqiang 19

IV. The Invention of the First Gun 21

i. The Ahcheng Gun 22

ii. The Xanadu Gun 24

iii. The Oldest Representation of the Gun 25

iv. The Wuwei 'cannon' 26

v. So Which is the First Gun? 27

V. A Geographic Model 28

i. Iron Production in the Song and Jin and Xia 33

ii. Saltpeter Production 36

iii. The Fall of the Northern Song 37

VI. Frequency of Conflict in the Song (960-1279) 40

i. Phase 1: The Northern Song, the Xia, and the Liao 41

ii. Phase 2: The Jin, the Southern Song, and the Xia 44

VII. Conclusion 46

VIII. Appendices 49

IX. Bibliography 53


application/pdf Honors Thesis 67 pages (14.7 MB) [Access copy of Honors Thesis]
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