Concept art by AI of the earliest version of the Chinese Fire Lance
Concept art by AI of the earliest version of the Chinese Fire Lance

Chinese Fire Lance

Gather ’round, folks, the story of firearms begins not with a bang, but a spark in ancient China. We’re talking about the Chinese Fire Lance, the granddaddy of modern guns. This isn’t just any story; it’s one that bridges the past and present, showing us just how far we’ve come.

Birth in Ancient China

Our story begins in 10th-century China, a place bubbling with innovation. The Chinese, always a step ahead, mixed up something special: gunpowder. They took this magical dust and packed it into bamboo tubes, and lo and behold, the Fire Lance was born. It was a simple thing at first, meant to spit fire at enemies, like a dragon in your hands. But, oh, it was just getting started.

From Bamboo to Metal

As time marched on, those bamboo tubes got a serious upgrade. Metal took bamboo’s place, making the Fire Lance sturdier and meaner. Now, instead of just flames, it could shoot arrows or metal shards. Imagine standing on a battlefield, with something that could do that in your hands. It was revolutionary, to say the least.

Changing the Game

This invention wasn’t just about scaring the bejeezus out of enemies with fire. It was the first step towards something bigger: guns as we know them. The Fire Lance showed folks that gunpowder could do more than just light up the sky. It could defend, conquer, and change the world.

A Legacy That Lives On

Fast forward to today, and the echoes of the Fire Lance can still be heard in every gun. It’s a reminder of human ingenuity and how a simple idea can spark a revolution in how we live, fight, and protect what’s ours.

A Bridge to the Past

So, next time you hear the crack of a firearm, take a moment to tip your hat to the Chinese Fire Lance. It’s a testament to the curious, inventive spirit of humanity, a spirit that looks at a bamboo tube and sees the potential to change the world. The Chinese Fire Lance isn’t just a weapon; it’s a bridge to our past, showing us the power of innovation and the enduring spirit of human creativity.

Is the Chinese fire lance and the modern day Roman candle firework the same thing?

Basically, yes.

Both the Chinese Fire Lance and a Roman candle firework use a tube filled with gun powder that gets ignited to launch projectiles.

However, the fire lance was used as a weapon to launch deadly ammo at enemies, while the Roman candle is used to launch fireworks to celebrate holidays.

But if you grew up in the 1980s and 90’s like me, you also aimed Roman candles at your enemies in epic neighborhood 4th of July battles.


  • Use of Gunpowder: Both the Fire Lance and Roman candle fireworks use gunpowder (or a similar pyrotechnic composition) to create a propulsive or visual effect. This gunpowder is ignited to produce thrust or launch projectiles.
  • Projectile Launch: Both can project materials out of a tube. The Fire Lance originally shot flames and was later adapted to shoot shrapnel or arrows, whereas a Roman candle ejects stars or exploding shells that are designed for visual display rather than combat.


  • Purpose: The primary difference lies in their intended use. The Fire Lance was a weapon designed for combat, intended to cause damage or injury to enemies. On the other hand, Roman candles are designed for entertainment, used in fireworks displays to create colorful aerial effects.
  • Design and Evolution: The Fire Lance was a precursor to modern firearms and evolved from a simple bamboo tube into more sophisticated metal-barreled weapons. Roman candles, however, are a type of firework with a specific focus on creating visual effects through the expulsion of “stars” or small charges that burn brightly in various colors and patterns.

So again, they’re basically the same device but with different materials.

Here’s a video of Ezekiel Vega using his home made wrist cannon to shoot a Roman candle: