The crossbow has a long and extensive history. In China, the crossbow was already well developed by 200 BC, as evidenced by finds of advanced bronze trigger mechanisms. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi's Terracotta Army also includes crossbowmen. Written sources indicate that the arches were used at least a hundred years earlier.
Crossbows were widely used in Europe between 800 and 1500.
The crossbow and the church
In 1097 Pope Urban II forbade the use of the crossbow between Christians, because he considered it an abominable and anti-godly weapon. In any case, the Church saw no problem in using the crossbow against 'infidels'.
About 1400 the design changed, and the stock was placed against the shoulder for more accurate aiming. By 1650 the crossbow had a stock in the modern rifle form, and was used in a similar way. Crossbow makers (arbalest masters) were making beautiful crossbow stocks around 1600. From this time, until well into the twentieth century, the crossbow has largely remained the same in terms of material, techniques and mechanisms.