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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


A Comparative Study of the Material Quality of Chinese and British Iron Cannons from the Opium War

Vol. 38 No. 4   12/2008    


A Comparative Study of the Material Quality of Chinese and British Iron Cannons from the Opium War


Hsiu -hsueh Liu  Shu-yun Sun









Key words

the Opium War, Muzzle loading smooth-bore guns, Material, Metallographic mÏcrostructure


  Although both cast in metal, Chinese cannons dating from the Opium

War were different from the Bri tish ones in microstructure. First of all, the

proportions of white iron and gray iron in the cannon bodies were different.

The Chinese cannon bodies were largely cast in white iron, while the British

ones were mostly cast in gray iron. Secondly, the shapes of graphite in the

gray iron composition show some differences. In the Chinese cannons, the

graphite is mostly in the form of flakes; however, in the British cannons, the

graphite has two forms (75% flakes, 25% flowers). Flower-shaped graphite

provides for better-quality gray iron. In addition, Britain had better casting

and processing technologies. As a result of these factors, British cannons

from the Opium War were of better quality than Chinese ones, and this, in

turn, aUected British performance. We believe that the difference in cannon

composition was one of the major factors that decided the outcome of the

Opium War.



Author: Hong-liang Liu Shu-yun Sun
Genre: Article
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