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Chinese culture workshop—Gunpowder

一提起火药,人们往往会想到爆炸等不好的事情,很难把它跟 "药”联系起来 火药为什么叫做“药”呢?原来 ,火药最开始并不是用在军事上的,它确实跟药有关。

When it comes to huoyao or gunpowder,unpleasant things like explosions may first come to mind. It is difficult to link huoyao, which literally means”fire medicine”,with medicine.Then how did huoyao get its name? It turns out that gunpowder was not meant for military purposes initially and it did have something to do with medicine.

1000多年前,中国古代的帝王贵族就开始幻想长生不老,于是就出现了 一批道上,专门研究可以长生不老的丹药,帝王贵族希望吃了这些丹药就可以不死。炼丹的道士们当然没有发明出长生不老的丹药,不过他们却积累了丰富的化学知识,他们在炼丹的过程中发现,硝石、硫黄和木炭混合后特别容易燃烧爆炸,而硝石、硫黄等在中国古代都是治病的药物.这些药物混合后易着火并猛烈燃烧,所以被称为火药。后来火药被广泛应用于烟花爆竹、弹药制造和工业爆破等各个方面。

As early as more than 1,ooo years ago,monarchs and peers in ancient China started dreaming about being immortal. A group ot Taoist began to research an elixir of life.The monarchs and peers hoped that they could live forever by ingesting these concoctions. Of course, the Taoists failed to produce any elixir of life,but they did learn a lot about chemistry during the process.They found that a mixture of saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal could burn easily and explode. Saltpeter and sulfur were used to treat diseases in ancient China. Since their mixture could easily catch fire and burn rapidly, it was called “fire medicine”. Gunpowder was later widely used to make fireworks, ammunition and industrial explosives.

现在中国人的日常生活中也离不开火药。 在春节,结婚,开业等喜庆的日子,烟花爆竹是必不可少的,尤其是烟花,比如,在各国举办的奥运会开幕式上都会燃放烟花,而北京奥运会燃放的烟花是以往各届奥运会燃放总数的3.8倍。

Gunpowder is also commonly used in the daily lives of modern Chinese. Fireworks and firecrackers are indispensible to festive occasion like the Spring Festival,weddings and inaugurations of businesses. Fireworks are also a must for opening ceremonies of the Olympics. The amount of fireworks set off at the Beijing Olympics is 3.8times the total of all past Olympics combined.


Gunpowder is flammable, so an angry person is often described as somebody who “has eaten gunpowder”  or person’s word “smell of gunpowder”


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