Rocket decorated to assume the image of a dragon

This picture doesn't make sense. Who would want to carve a head statue just for a rocket that will blow up?

How does it work?

  • 4
    Itt seems this "rocket" is not intended to blow up.This appears to be decorative tube with four gunpowder engines tied to it. When ignited the four engines lift the tube into the air at an angle, stabilized by the fletching at the bottom of the sticks attached to the engines., I would think such a device could be used multiple times by replacing the engines after each flight..While such a device might "Blow up" if a proper charge were set forward by the fuse attached to one of the engines, most likely it simply "spit" fire and flames (out of the mouth) on the way down. Scary,,not destructive.
    – J. Taylor
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 18:54
  • 5
    It seems more likely that this is nothing more than artistic. It seems doubtful that the rockets here would all have exactly the right thrust to keep this object in stable flight. This illustration seems modern and somewhat fanciful in nature.
    – user22859
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 11:01
  • Where did you find this image? Is the source credible? historical? When? Where? Modern weapons are frequently decorated (bomber nose art). Why wouldn't ancient weapons be so? Weapons that successfully intimidate can accomplish their purpose without being used. Documenting preliminary research will improve both the probability of an answer and the quality of the answer(s)
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:08
  • The only sources I can find for that image are ... suspicious
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:12

2 Answers 2


The decorated part does not explode b/c it is a launcher, not a bomb. It does not break upon falling either, b/c it was used by the navy, so the used-up launcher falls into the water, and can be recovered later.

Decorations make sense. They scare the enemy (who will think they are facing a fire-breathing dragon). And they inspire pride into own soldiers. I am pretty sure early rocket weapons were focused on psychological effect, due to low accuracy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huolongjing#Fire_arrows_and_rockets , last paragraph:

The Huolongjing also describes and illustrates the oldest known multistage rocket; this was the "fire-dragon issuing from the water" (huo long chu shui), which was known to be used by the Chinese navy.[32][33] It was a two-stage rocket that had carrier or booster rockets that would automatically ignite a number of smaller rocket arrows that were shot out of the front end of the missile, which was shaped like a dragon's head with an open mouth, before eventually burning out.

Painting above is probably inspired by this illustration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huolongjing#/media/File:Chinese_Multistage_Rocket.JPG


This is a Chinese multistage rocket known as the "Huolongchushui" (Huolongjing; MING dyn.cca.1400).

The earlier poster is somewhat correct, it was in fact fired upwards, facing the enemy, and the rockets underneath that provide the thrust were very carefully balanced and coordinated to fire simultaneously (through human methods) to fire the bamboo tube upwards and toward the enemy. At this stage (literally, this is a multistage rocket) the thrusters trigger the fuses in the mid-range rockets in the shaft which fire several further rockets toward the enemy.

I'm not sure about the reusability, however it would survive the burn from the rockets, and if you had a functioning model why throw it away? Great Ming dynasty rocket engineers were big on mathematical repeatability, and they'd likely love to get their hands on a launched tube.

Interestingly, The translation of the name is "Fire dragon which arises from the water", if you were an ancient society you'd be scared of an enemy that has this kind of firepower.

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