The Blast that Nearly Destroyed Beijing

Industrial accidents are hardly news in China. But sometimes an industrial accident wipes out half a city, kills 20,000 people, and enters the annals of history as a story weird enough to be worthy of its own X-File.

In 1626, the Wanggongchang Armory exploded taking most of southwest Beijing with it. But to this day, nobody can agree exactly what happened. It was an explosion so immense that it was heard beyond the Great Wall over 150 kilometers from the blast site. Reports of a “mushroom shaped” cloud hanging over Beijing after the accident have provided grist for historical conspiracy theorists ever since.