ronnewmexico wrote:Solely conjecture but there could conceivably be more here than meets the eye.
Buddhism in China at the time of the initiation of guns/firearms was in a period of decline being replaced eventually by Confusian thought. UNtil after the Mongule invasion when it received a revival of sorts.
The Mongule leader being converted when a teacher of Buddhism saw the armies of the Mongules killing indiscriminately Huan chinese, and brought the leader to the error of his ways,
The firearms were first developed by the Chinese to defend their borders north and south against the exterior enemies which included Mongules(though I don't believe they were Buddhists at this time) . Which is very roughly when this was painted.
Were these simple descriptions of weapons used in that portrayal of the initial enlightenement or was there a ploitical statement of sorts being made....
Whoever painted the painting invariably knew firearms were a very recent chinese invention and not present at the time of the Buddha. But they well may have just included it.....or....was it a slight to the holders of the new weapons and the politic they represented/enemies of the buddha?
China is very complex
In the 10th century China was suffering far more internal problems than external what with the collapse of the Tang Dynasty.
However, as always there were those pesky nomads up north who would raid into China whenever they had the chance.
The painter might not have been Chinese. Dunhuang is full of Tibetan, Tanghut and even Sogdian and Sanskrit works. It was only Chinese to a certain extent as it was a kind of cosmopolitan hub it seems. We know there were Tibetans hanging out there too.
In any case putting in recent inventions into Buddhist art (or for that matter sutras where newly available trade goods make their appearances in some texts) is not really surprising. I think perhaps the artist was thinking of the most terrible things and this new invention of boom sticks came to mind.
I mean nowadays Mara might attack Shakyamuni with weapons of mass destruction (but fortunately we all know those are illusory like they were in Iraq!