The History of Fireworks

It is believed by historians that the precursor to fireworks, black powder, originated in China some 2,000 years ago. Legend tells of a Chinese cook who accidentally spilled saltpeter (a flavoring agent) into a cooking fire, producing an interesting flame. After witnessing the interesting flame, the cook decided to mix charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter. To the cook’s surprise, the mixture burned rapidly, with unprecedented heat and force.

While numerous experiments with black powder occurred over the next thousand years, a Chinese monk named Li Tian is credited with the development of the firecracker, the forerunner of today’s modern fireworks products. Tian, a native of Liu Yang in the Hunan Province, reportedly created the first firecrackers by filling bamboo shoots with black powder. When ignited at new years festivities, these explosive bamboo shoots created loud bangs. These noises were thought to have the power to fend off evil spirits and ghosts.

Generally, Marco Polo is credited with bringing Chinese black powder back to Europe in the 13th century. Once in Europe, black powder was initially used for military purposes, namely in the development of rockets, canons, and guns. With their emphasis on arts and entertainment, the Italians were the first Europeans who used black powder to manufacture fireworks.

In the modern era, China continues to be a driving force in the global fireworks market. The Chinese province of Liu Yang, Li Tian’s home, remains the global fireworks capital. While nearly all of the fireworks available for sale in Canada originate in China, these articles are subject to intense scrutiny by Canada’s Explosives Regulatory Division prior to importation.

Family fireworks continue to be the most prevalent source of industry growth, with annual consumption increasing between 5% and 10%. New family fireworks products are being developed in large volumes, and the scope and variety of products will undoubtedly continue to increase over the foreseeable future.

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