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Nukes in 1626? Beijing explosion created mushroom cloud, stripped everyone naked

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posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:39 AM
Hi, ATSers! I've been working very hard on this thread, and it's my biggest so far. So, without further ado...

What was the Wang Gong Factory explosion?

Picture this. You're working quietly at home, minding your own business. The ground's rumbling a bit, and there seems to be a fireball in the sky, but you convince yourself that you're seeing things. Suddenly, you hear a deafening sound and cannot hear for a couple of seconds, while a blinding light fills up the sky for a brief second. The houses start shaking, stones and bricks are flying everywhere, all the trees catch fire and burn, and the sky immediately turns pitch black as if night has fallen. A mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke is blocking everything in sight, except some oddly-coloured clouds in the distance. You faint.

After regaining your consciousness, you think you're in a dream. All the houses have been reduced to rubble. There are no trees in sight. Some are still unconscious, many of them already dead. Body parts are scattered everywhere. Some people are walking around, looking for people they know. Some are by their loved ones' sides, crying like a child. You all have one thing in common, though: you're all buck-naked.

As ridiculous as it sounds, this actually happened on 30 May 1626, Beijing, China. Unfortunately, although we have tons of books describing the catastrophe in gruesome detail, there were no photos left from the time. Here's an artist's impression (

The centre of the explosion was Wang Gong factory, which is represented by a star on this map of 17th-century Beijing:

The impact? 10930 houses destroyed, 20000 killed, including 29 of the 30 employees in Wang Gong Factory (a guy called Wu Er was the lucky survivor). The crater created measured 13 feet. In modern terms, it took 10000 to 20000 tonnes of TNT, or about the power of the Hiroshima bombing (16000 tonnes). Rumbling was felt as far away as Datong and Xuanhua. (Datong will be a very important location when we analyse the plausibility of ancient nukes.) One of the falling bricks knocked down the royal throne, scaring the rather superstitious emperor, who thought it was a warning from the skies and vowed to be a better ruler.

The Debunked Theories

Theory 1: The Factory Itself

Wang Gong Factory manufactured gunpowder, so it's no wonder why many believe the source of the explosion to be Wang Gong Factory. Some suggest that the explosion resulted from an industrial accident, or was a planned accident by Later Jin spies.

However, this theory has been disproved as Ming gunpowder couldn't possibly generate a mushroom-shaped cloud, rip off everyone's clothes or create a giant crater of this size (at least not with the amount stored in the factory).

Ming gunpowder wasn't very powerful (though it was powerful at the time). The energy released could not exceed 3000m/s and produces lots of black smoke (not a mushroom cloud). Ming gunpowder clearly couldn't take off the clothes of its victims, either, at that potency. (According to rough estimates, you need 20000-30000 tonnes of gunpowder in the factory to achieve the same amount of destruction, but the factory produced 700 tonnes per year, so that's impossible.)

Moreover, the fireball and the rumbling of the earth before the incident cannot be explained by this, either. Therefore, this theory has been officially disproved.

Theory 2: Tornado

The tornado theory may partially explain the incident. Many descriptions of the incident's aftermath resemble that of a tornado. For example, corpses piled atop each other and tiles fell from the sky. This theory also explains why a stone lion was whisked away from the city, but the city wall was not damaged. The line between 'affected area' and 'not affected area' was quite clear-cut, and this also supports the tornado theory.

(Tornado in Iowa. Notice that the far left was nearly unharmed, while the rest of the picture faced total destruction.)

However, the sounds heard during the incident are not tornado sounds. Plus, tornadoes don't give early warning signs like the rumbling earth before the incident. Perhaps the biggest flaw in this theory is that it cannot address why it was felt in other places like Tianjin. Tornadoes usually aren't felt anywhere else.

Theory 3: Earthquake/Vulcanicity
Beijing suffered from a lot of earthquakes during the Ming Dynasty, so many believe that it was the result of an earthquake. This explains:
-The earth rumbling
-The houses falling
but does not explain:
-The naked victims
-The fireball
-The mushroom-shaped cloud
-The crater
Moreover, seismological information shows that there was no earthquake on that day.

There also appears to be a 'concealed volcano' theory, but I can find no info on it.

Theory 4: Meteors (or other celestial bodies)

After the Russian meteor incident, it may be tempting to point at meteors. After all, this explains the fireball, the loud noise, the crater and the cloud. However, it doesn't explain the rumbling earth or any of the earthquake-like effects of the incident, e.g. how was the meteor collision felt far away?

There's another important piece of evidence that disproves the meteor idea. If a meteor had hit the earth, it had to be of the large variety or there wouldn't have been so much destruction. However, the crater is too small to be formed by a large meteor. Moreover, a meteor would have formed the crater by eversion, but this crater was formed by collapsing.

How about a comet? The area of destruction was too small to be a comet, and comets don't destroy things 'selectively' (e.g. remember that Wu Er guy, or the untouched temples?)

The Speculative Theories

It's time to move on to some speculative theories.

Theory 5: Aliens

Aliens can, of course, explain anything. Unfortunately, it's precisely because we know nothing about our extraterrestrial friends that we can use them to explain anything (cough cough Ancient Aliens). This theory cannot possibly be debunked, but it cannot possibly be proved, either.

Some believe that this can explain the clothes, but I'll later show that nukes can do this as well.

Theory 6: Unknown matter

Anti-matter, black holes and quarks can be blamed for anything because we don't know enough about them. Again, this theory can't possibly be debunked, but we also have zero proof.

Theory 6: Ancient nukes

This is, in my opinion, the most probable theory.

Continued in the next post
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posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:41 AM
Why do you think it's the nukes?

Historical evidence

First, we need some background info on China's discovery of uranium. Let's start with the Tianqi Emperor (more commonly known as Xizong in China). Tianqi is usually depicted as a stupid and uneducated emperor who couldn't care less for the country. During his reign, the eunuch Wei Zhongxian gained a lot of power and did the actual ruling for him. Tianqi and Wei are usually condemned as culprits behind the fall of Ming.


However, Tianqi was actually a top-notch engineer. He built a lot of strange objects and contraptions in his free time. For example, Tianqi disliked the heavy beds that his craftsmen made for him, so he made a collapsible, mobile and lightweight bed which was adorned with various carvings. The craftsmen were impressed. He was also keen on making little wooden figures which he then sold in the market. He even built a machine for conducting puppet shows.

Tianqi also won many wars. In one battle, Yuan Chonghuan killed Nurhaci (I'll cover this battle later in this post). The Dutch were twice defeated by Ming. He also abolished Kuangjian (a kind of tax collector) and pacified Liaodong. Clearly, he isn't the 'illiterate emperor' some people claim him to be. Why was he depicted as such?

Having met the Emperor, let's get to nukes again. Let's rewind back to Zhang Juzheng's reforms. Of his many reforms, the military one is the one we need. Zhang asked Qi Jiguang to reform the military. Qi set up an organisation to research new military technologies, including the breech-loading swivel gun.

(That's a breech-loading swivel gun, not an atomic bomb, silly.)

Tianqi has always supported this organisation. After the deaths of Xiong Tingbi and Yang Lian, the organisation lost the Donglin Party support and was merged into the Jinyi Wei (the Ming Secret Service). (During the late Ming Dynasty, politicians were either Donglin - anti-eunuch - or non-Donglin - pro-eunuch.)

At the time, there was a strange kind of stones called 'leishi' (thunderstones), now identified to be uranium. A few soldiers found uranium near the Sino-Mongolian border, in Datong. Thinking it was gold ore, they melted it, causing an explosion (called an earthquake in some historical records). In 1580, a strange 'plague' plagued Datong, and for every ten households, nine were affected. This may have been caused by the radiation left over from the explosion.

(Thunderstones, Baidu Baike)

It is said that the organisation had quite an interest in thunderstones. Xu Xianchun, a senior official for the Secret Service notorious for his brutality in carrying out his duty, allegedly told the organisation (which was integrated into the Secret Service, remember?) to show the thunderstones to the Emperor. The researchers took them to Wang Gong Factory, and KA-BOOM!

I can't find any real evidence for this from historical records. Perhaps there is, but I can't find any. However, given the evidence we have, it would hardly be surprising.

Before we get to the science, let's look at Tianqi again. This excellent engineer died at the age of 23. He couldn't have contracted any STDs - he preferred making contraptions to, uh, let's skip this part. The symptoms before his death seem to result from radiation...

Continued in the next post
edit on 6/3/13 by diqiushiwojia because: (no reason given)

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posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:42 AM
Scientific evidence

As we've seen above, the various 'natural theories' each explain some of the strange phenomena, but not all. The nuke theory can explain most of them (not all, though).

Firstly, mushroom clouds are often formed by nuclear explosions. (The amount of gunpowder in the factory is not enough to produce a mushroom cloud, but a nuclear explosion is.) The other strange clouds (cloud 'ribbons' and clouds with strange colours) may be formed by the explosion's electromagnetic pulse ionising the atmosphere. The blinding light is also produced by nukes. As for the fireball, that appeared in Hiroshima as well.

(Nagasaki mushroom cloud)

Secondly, the amount of destruction was reasonable. The Hiroshima bomb killed 66000, while this one killed 20000. The population density was much lower in 1626 and this explosion may not be of such a great magnitude, so it makes sense.

Thirdly, the shock waves generated were extremely powerful. About 2.4 sq. km faced utter and total destruction. It was probably also the shock waves which removed the clothing. Shock waves may create a temporary vacuum environment which rips off any clothing that isn't stuck to the body. These shock waves are eerily similar to those of neutron bombs.

(Consquences of the shock waves generated by the Russian meteor. The Beijing explosion's damage was much more severe. From Wikipedia.)

The one thing that atomic bombs cannot explain is the rumbling earth. Perhaps that can be explained by active seismic activity in Beijing at the time, though.

The anti-Later Jin campaign

Apart from the historical evidence above, there's another 'storyline' we could refer to as evidence of ancient nukes. In the Battle of Ningyuan, Yuan Chonghuan, a Ming general, fired at Nurhaci with a cannon, killing Nurhaci. In that battle, Yuan had

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:53 AM
TLTR for now but I bet the explosion was caused by a mixture of gunpowder with something else, possibly uranium. I strongly doubt they had the technology for nuclear fission/fusion at that time.
ETA: Like Wrabbit said, it may be, I think, too soon to write off gunpowder.
edit on 6-3-2013 by kimish because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:54 AM
I wonder if we are writing off the gunpowder possibillity too quickly. As a Midwestern resident, I've come to know one of the most explosive and dangerous substances ever discovered by mankind. Grain. Wheat. ...yup. Food type grain.

He explains that dust, oxygen and fire make an explosive combination.

Henry says, "Very similar to a bomb, basically it ignites just like gun powder would."

As Henry demonstrates with grain dust, a straw and lighter...the dust mixes with the air inside the straw...then it disperses...meets the flame and...

"When you get a large amount of surface area exposed to the flame, that's when it becomes highly explosive," says Henry

Powdered or drifting in the air just right, plain old grain can be one of the most destructive explosive forces outside of engineered chemical or nuclear detonations. It creates something very similar to the Fuel/Air mixture explosives which are themselves, rated as the highest known explosive force in the world, second to Nuclear Weapons themselves.

(A couple 5 gallon cans of gas ...if manipulated just right, in just the right way, can just about blow out all 4 walls of a Kmart of small Walmart in fuel-air's a HUGE blast when the air itself is exploding over a HUGE area)
edit on 6-3-2013 by Wrabbit2000 because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:55 AM
reply to post by diqiushiwojia

Brilliantly interesting.

I wish I knew more about Asian history.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 08:59 AM
Where there any grain silos, or grain storage facilities close by?

Grain silos and storage facilities are notorious for their explosivity.
I created a thread a long while back in attempting to frame the idea of looking at some ancient and prehistorical disasters that could very well be attributable to exploding grain storage.
Ancient Explosions ...

reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Looks like we're on the same page.

Grain goes Boom!

Granted, Asia is more rice oriented, but, the same goes for that as typical wheat grain.

edit on 6-3-2013 by Druscilla because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:04 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

This incident resulted in 10000 houses destroyed and 20000 dead. Your source says one person was hurt...
(To be fair, that one was about grains, though.)

Nothing in the incident matches what would have happened with Ming gunpowder. Ming gunpowder wasn't very powerful (though it was powerful at the time). The energy released cannot exceed 3000m/s and produces lots of black smoke (not a mushroom cloud). Ming gunpowder clearly couldn't take off the clothes of its victims, either, at that potency. (According to rough estimates, you need 20000-30000 tonnes of gunpowder in the factory to achieve the same amount of destruction, but the factory produced 700 tonnes per year, so that's impossible.) Moreover, strange phenomena like the rumbling earth and the fireball can't be explained away by gunpowder.
edit on 6/3/13 by diqiushiwojia because: (no reason given)

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posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:07 AM
just because there is a "mushroom cloud", does not mean a nuclear explosion.
it just means a really big explosion.

the tsar bomb for example

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:09 AM

Originally posted by generik
just because there is a "mushroom cloud", does not mean a nuclear explosion.
it just means a really big explosion.

the tsar bomb for example

I never said mushroom clouds must point to nuclear explosions, but the gunpowder in the factory sure doesn't make mushroom clouds.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:13 AM
reply to post by Druscilla

The nearest ones seem to be on the northern and eastern sides of Beijing (Wang Gong is in the southwest. Moreover, I don't think grains can explain the rumbling earth, blinding light, mushroom cloud, fireball, clothes-losing, etc.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:17 AM
reply to post by diqiushiwojia

I suggest you read about the Washburn Mill Exposion

On May 2, 1878, at 7:10 p.m., a spark ignited flour dust in the Washburn A Mill. The explosion that followed blew the mill’s concrete roof several hundred feet in the air and leveled the seven and a-half story limestone building. The nearby Humboldt and Diamond Mills also were flattened by the explosion, and one third of the city’s business district was destroyed by the fire. The explosion broke windows as far away as Summit Avenue in St. Paul, and limestone blocks landed in yards eight blocks from the milling district.

People from Minneapolis and St. Paul poured into the streets. Many were convinced that the city had been struck by an earthquake; others believed that the world had ended. When it became clear what had happened, they rushed to the milling district to see the damage and to find out what had happened to the men inside. All of the fourteen men in the Washburn A Mill at the time of the explosion died, as did four men working in neighboring mills.

These were multiple storey concrete and limestone buildings; all rather stout architecture.
Imagine were these wood, as well as the surrounding buildings.
The devastation would have been vastly more widespread.
Add a gunpowder factory into the blast radius and the results could very well be on par with apocalyptic.

edit on 6-3-2013 by Druscilla because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:22 AM
1626 hardly qualifies as "ancient".

Geese aha.

Star Trek baffled me yesterday when they were talking about the 20th century being ancient, when the "Voyager" crew its self is only in the 24th century.

Are people trying to confuse me on purpose? lol

By the way OP - The phrase you were looking for is Butt-neked

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:22 AM
Very interesting thread. Very interested in Chinese history. I like where you are going with this thread. But the idea that only a nuke creates a mushroom cloud is false. Hit up you tube and watch videos from the iraq war where americans destroy weapons cashes. You'll see mushroom clouds. But don't feel bad about it. THe explosions can fool even the best. It's rumored that when the US dropped their first MOAB in the Iraqi desert the SAS several miles away from the blast radioed "The Yanks have just nuked iraq" to their command. They were told a few minutes later that it was a conventional explosive.

Also don't underestimate grain as an explosive. A friend who worked as a explosives expert in the military once told me that with a very small explosive and a bag of flour he can level a house. Apparently the bag of flour is the oxidizer.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:24 AM
reply to post by Druscilla

If the rice was indeed the culprit, then there would be accounts of a 'multi-centred' explosion, instead of focusing on Wang Gong. Also, if the rice were involved, the whole capital would have been destroyed (not what happened).

I also don't think this would explain the weird phenomena (fireball et al.)

S&Fed your thread by the way.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:26 AM
reply to post by ObservingYou

When we talk about China, 'ancient' may refer to pre-1911.

Oh, and it is unclear whether 'butt-naked' or 'buck-naked' was the original phrase.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:27 AM
reply to post by diqiushiwojia

Why is a meteor ruled out? You say the ground wouldn't shake?

If you were 1/2 mile away when the meteor hit and you didn't see it, you would feel the ground shake and then turn around to see what caused this....

But I have to agree, it sounds like an explosion of pretty epic purportions......Almost the yield of Hiroshima? WOW.....Maybe Uranium mixed with gunpowder, who knows?

Awesome thread.....Great job putting it together.....Very informative!! S&F for your efforts for sure!!

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:29 AM
reply to post by diqiushiwojia

something else i found fascinating, in your first post.

Unfortunately, although we have tons of books describing the catastrophe in gruesome detail, there were no photos left from the time.

does this mean that the chinese had developed photography way back in 1626. that was about 200 years ahead of the rest of the world.

edit on 6-3-2013 by hounddoghowlie because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:31 AM
reply to post by diqiushiwojia

Can't make nukes without an access to heavy water and modern engineering techniques. Even then, it isn't that simple (just ask Iran!).

Unless there was some weird sci-fi style time warp that took a Chinese nuclear test back in time, there is absolutely no way this was a nuclear explosion.

For me, it is definitely too early to write off the gunpowder factory.

posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 09:34 AM
reply to post by Chrisfishenstein

I see I wasn't very clear with the meteors. I've reworded to clarify. Meteors couldn't have produced the earth's rumbling before the incident.

PS Thanks for everyone's replies and support. It's much appreciated.

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