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This Thursday is one of those holidays that there are people who would save it if they could, while others have it marked on the calendar and wait impatiently. In fact, they have been heard for days firecrackers everywhere (especially in Girona, but that’s for another topic), however, nothing comparable to what will happen when they start at nightfall the verbenas Then it will be time for the pyrotechnic fury unleashed: detonations and rockets everywhere without stopping until well into the morning.

In the Mediterranean we have an ancient passion for everything that has to do with the fire and, obviously, if it is about welcoming summer, even more so. However, this is not the exclusive heritage of the countries bathed by this small sea. In China they take advantage of us.

Everyone knows, without even being aware of how we learned it, that it was there that it was invented the gunpowder However, historians do not quite agree on how it was possible because the sources that have come down to us are scarce and partial. Some studies point to an alchemist named Wei Boyang, who would have lived in the second century. On the other hand, others doubt that it was a one-man thing. Be that as it may, little by little, from that time it is known that tests were carried out to combine saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal to make what we call gunpowder and which in Chinese is called Huo Yao, which literally translated would be “fire medicine & rdquor; because it was discovered drug discovery process to help lengthen life, which was the great obsession of Chinese alchemists.

From the outset, what they valued most about this new product was its detonation capacity. That is why they incorporated it into the traditions to celebrate the arrival of the new year. On the first day of the year you had to scare the spirit of the mountains and the only way to do it was with noise. Before the discovery of gunpowder, bamboo sticks were burned in a bonfire because the flames made them crackle so that they looked like little explosions. Around the eleventh century they already realized that with gunpowder they would make more noise. That was the first step for the appearance of firecrackers, which immediately delighted the youngest and they competed to see who would throw the most powerful ones. They were made by hand and shaped like fruits or figurines. Also, they could be joined by a joint fuse in a similar way to the current strakes.

At the same time, fireworks were also developed to entertain the emperor and his court. It can be said that before there were already shows with lights and flames, but with the mastery of the new substance they could be more spectacular. We know all this thanks to poems of the time and fragments of the chronicles of those celebrations.

Around the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it was seen that gunpowder could also have military application, not only for its explosive capacity but also for its propellant capacity. With a detonation you could move a projectile much farther than with a bow or crossbow. Some hypotheses defend that the expansion of the Mongols from Asia to Europe was so successful because they knew this technology that the peoples of the Old Continent had never seen. In fact, this would have meant the entry of firearms in the West.

On the other hand, there is another theory that maintains that the arrival of the gunpowder would have been through the Silk Road, which is the same path followed by paper, another of the great Chinese inventions. And in the same way the Arabs would also have benefited from it. In fact, in medieval texts written in their language they refer to fireworks as “Chinese flowers & rdquor; already gunpowder like “chinese snow” (Thalj Al-sin).

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In Europe, the first to leave a written record of this invention was the English Franciscan philosopher RogerBacon, in 1267, in the book ‘Opus Maius’, where he describes firecrackers as a very loud toy that scares you if you are caught off guard when it goes off. It seems as if this man had been in a festival of San Juan.


Bacon imprisoned

In the book ‘Opus Maius’, roger bacon He talked about gunpowder and many other things because he wanted to gather all the knowledge known in his time. Although the project initially had the support of the Papacy, he ended up being prosecuted and imprisoned for ten years because with his book he questioned some approaches considered untouchable by his contemporaries.

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