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The invention of the cannon, driven by gunpowder, was first developed in China. Like firearms, cannon are a descendant of the fire lance, a gunpowder-filled tube attached to the end of a spear and used as a flamethrower in China. Shrapnel was sometimes placed in the barrel, so that it would fly out along with the flames. Eventually, the paper and bamboo of which fire lance barrels were originally constructed came to be replaced by metal.

It has been disputed at which point flame-projecting cannon were abandoned in favor of missile-projecting ones, as words meaning either ''incendiary'' or ''explosive'' are commonly translated as ''gunpowder''.

The first documented battlefield use of cannon took place on January 28, 1132, when Chinese Song Dynasty General Han Shizhong used the huochong cannon to capture a city in Fujian. The world's earliest known cannon, dated 1282, was found in Mongol-held Manchuria. The first known illustration of a cannon is dated to 1326. In his 1341 poem, ''The Iron Cannon Affair'', one of the first accounts of the use of gunpowder artillery in China, Xian Zhang wrote that a cannonball fired from an eruptor could "pierce the heart or belly when it strikes a man or horse, and can even transfix several persons at once."

Joseph Needham suggests that the proto-shells described in the ''Huolongjing]' may be among the first of their kind. The Chinese also mounted over 3,000 cast bronze and iron cannon on the Great Wall of China, to defend themselves from the Mongols. The weapon was later taken up by both the Mongol conquerors and the Koreans. Chinese soldiers fighting under the Mongols appear to have used hand cannon in Manchurian battles during 1288, a date deduced from archaeological findings at battle sites.

In the 1593 Siege of Pyongyang, 40,000 Ming Dynasty troops deployed a variety of cannon to bombard an equally large Japanese army. Despite both forces having similar numbers, the Japanese were defeated in one day, due to the Ming advantage in firepower. Throughout the Seven Year War in Korea, the Chinese-Korean coalition used artillery widely, in both land and naval battles.

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In the US Military, "cannons" are (or were) called "guns." What civilians call "guns" are called "small arms" in the military; rifles, pistols, shotguns, machineguns, etc. are small arms in the US military.

In the US military, cannons are also called "artillery". Therefore, guns, cannons, pieces (field pieces), artillery, all mean the same thing to a military man (Sailor, Marine, or Soldier).

Field guns (field pieces, artillery, cannons, guns, etc.) are for causing confusion and casualties upon the enemy. Additionally, they are for destroying fortifications such a bunkers, buildings, or machines such as armored or thin skinned vehicles.

Naval guns are somewhat different. They are for direct (or used to be) line of sight destruction of enemy ships. Another words, while an "army" gun might be used to cause casualties to enemy troops, a "naval" gun is for actually tearing up an enemy vessel, and sinking it

While an army gun, such as a howitzer for example can lob shells (firing with a arching trajectory) onto an enemy target, a naval gun is aimed like a rifle at a target. Consequently, many naval guns are sometimes referred to as "rifles."

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Q: Who is credited with inventing the cannon?
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