A Disaster That Wiped Out Half a City
The devastating Wanggongchang Explosion of 1626 in Beijing unfolded at the heart of the Wanggongchang Armory, a vital facility producing weapons and ammunition for Ming China. The explosion, resonating far beyond the immediate destruction, claimed approximately 20,000 lives and obliterated half of Beijing. With a workforce of 70 to 80 individuals, the armory’s importance in maintaining the defense and military readiness of Ming China was paramount. Unfortunately, little consideration was given to protecting the city from the potential dangers posed by the gunpowder factories strategically placed within its walls.
The catastrophic consequences of the explosion extended beyond the immediate devastation. The Wanggongchang Armory, one of China’s largest weapons factories, housed the nation’s primary arms and munitions stockpile. The incident marked a critical juncture in Ming China’s history, occurring amidst a backdrop of internal strife, corruption, and natural disasters. Viewed as a sign of divine displeasure and punishment for the emperor’s perceived incompetence, the Wanggongchang Explosion played a significant role in hastening the Ming Dynasty’s decline. Eighteen years later, the dynasty succumbed to defeat, paving the way for the rise of the Qing Dynasty.