Li hua ch'iang (Fire-lance)
The pear-flower spear or li hua ch'iang was an early form of fire lance, that is a spear-like weapon combining a long spear with a simple firework-like charge at the end underneath the spear head. The firework would shoot out a small projectile or poison along with the flame. The weapon had a range of only a few feet so was used in close combat and was a key stage in the development of the firearm. The first fire-lances were seen in China during the 10th century but by about 1260 they had developed into a variety of forms and although normally associated with peasant rebels regular Sung troops also used them, their use by cavalry being described at the siege of Yangchow in 1276. They were cheap and popular for several centuries sometimes being used in racks to defend cities and remained in use until well after the Ming period. The development of gunpowder in the fire lance to have enough force to hurl a killing projectile was a key step along the development of the first true guns.
Medieval Chinese Armies, 1260-1520 (Men-at-arms S.), Chris J. Peers. This is a nicely written 47-page book on an often-neglected period. The plates cover cavalry, infantry, auxiliary troops and some early artillery. It is a fascinating read and highlights a very different medieval style of warfare than was practised in Europe during this period [see more].
How to cite this article:
Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (31 May 2001), Li hua ch'iang (Fire-lance), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_firelance.html