As we have mentioned before, technological breakthroughs aren't always built upon or improved -- oftentimes they're just outright forgotten, destroyed or lost to some ridiculous accident.
The same goes with military technology. Some ancient weapons were literally centuries ahead of their time yet wound up in the trash when society decided they were simply too awesome for their time. Like ...
714th-Century Cruise Missiles
As you're about to find out, the Chinese have a knack for inventing truly awesome things and then forgetting all about them. One of these things was the Chinese Flying Crow with Magic Fire, not to be confused with the band of the same name.
The Chinese also invented tofu, but that's barely interesting enough to deserve a caption.
These 14th-century weapons took inspiration from another weapon, fire-birds, which were actual birds that were outfitted with small pouches of smoldering embers around their necks and released into enemy cities. The red-hot embers would either fall out or burn through the pouches and land on rooftops, starting massive building fires.
The problem with fire-birds was that the birds were alive and would fly not only into the defending city but also to the tents and siege works of the attackers, where they would burn down the camp and shit on everything.
But seriously, birds are the worst.
The Chinese tried to get around this problem with devices that are detailed in the awesomely named Fire Dragon Manual. The Flying Crows were dummy birds constructed with bamboo frames and paper skin, and each one contained an explosive warhead. They were launched into the air via a rocket with a range of more than 1,000 feet. When one crashed into its target, be it a ship or some building in a besieged city, the warhead detonated. While this is a terrific idea, we have to question why the bird disguise is even necessary.
Hopefully it was a little less conspicuous than this picture would have us believe.
The resulting explosion could apparently be seen from miles away. A smaller version, called the free-flying enemy-pounding-thunder-crash bomb (awesome) had internal timers and when launched would explode at a predetermined height, raining down spikes dipped in "tiger-poison."
Made from real tigers.
Forgotten Until ...
This type of winged bomb wouldn't become popular in the Western world until the early 1900s -- nearly 600 years later. And it will probably be another hundred years before they achieve the pure aesthetic awesomeness of the Chinese papier-mache rocket birds.