In the Han Dynasty (206-220 BC) it is said that people would roast bamboo to produce a load sound that was intended to disperse ghosts and apparitions. In the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-581 AD) this kind of sound was not only used to dispel evil but also to pray for happiness and prosperity.
At the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, the first paper tube crackers, filled with gunpowder, were produced. Crackers strung together by hemp rope, known as 'hundred-break' crackers, appeared at the end of the Southern Dynasty (fifth Century AD). Li Tian is credited as the originator of the cracker industry.
Li Tian, the Founder
There was an emperor named Li Shiming in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). His Prime Minister, Wei Zhou, killed an evil dragon, which then came back to haunt him. He was greatly vexed and did not know what to do. Li Tian ignited a bamboo tube that was filled with a pyrotechnic composition. The ghost was frightened by the loud bang and went away. After that, the people called Li Tian the founder of crackers and every April 18th they offer sacrifices to him.
It was said that in the Zhenguan period of the Tang Dynasty, in the east of Hunan Province there were floods and droughts every year. Li Tian went to Liu Yang and was struck by the people's poverty. He set off fireworks to disperse the evil, after which, the people lived and worked in peace and prosperity. In the Song Dynasty (980-1271 AD) people set up a temple to worship Li Tian.
The Development of the Firecracker
At the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), beginning of the Tang (618-907 AD), the famous alchemist and medicine man Sun Si Miao refined ore in a cave near the eastern side of Liu Yang, Hunan. He developed crackers and later, fireworks. His tools and workbench have been preserved to this day.
At the end of the Northern Song and the beginning of the Southern Song dynasties, firecrackers made rapid progress along side the development of social, economic and chemical sciences. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) firecrackers were presented to the palace as articles of tribute and were greatly enjoyed by the dignitaries of the court.