They're pretty. They're festive. They're explosives.

Many forget that fireworks are actually just gunpowder in pyrotechnic canisters that, when lit, blow up in the sky to produce the beautiful colors and sights we see on holidays like 4th of July.

Also, did you know that fireworks date back even farther than the first Independence Day celebration?

Fireworks first originated in 10th century China, commonly used to entertain Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty during celebrations. Created by Chinese pyrotechnicians in many colors and sizes, Lev Izmailov, who was the ambassador of Russia's Peter the Great, said [The Chinese] make such fireworks that no one in Europe has ever seen. The trend spread to common Chinese people who purchased them for entertainment from street fair vendors before fireworks exploded into popularity in the mid-17th century.

According to Think Quest, the Mongols brought the Chinese rockets and fireworks to Europe around 1241 and the first recorded use was in 1258. It was not until the 19th century when fireworks became an entertainment staple in the United States. By the time of the American Revolution, fireworks were a natural part of important events.

Today the Chinese are still the leaders in manufacturing fireworks, according to China Daily, making more than 90 percent of fireworks sold in the world for over 20 years. According to Chinese customs statistics, exports of Chinese fireworks brought in $553 million in 2010, with 31.8 percent sent to the U.S. and 40 percent sent to Europe. In fact, the largest firework display was in Portugal in 2006, utilizing 66,326 fireworks, according to Guinness World Records.

In honor of Independence Day, here are photos of some of the best firework displays throughout history.