Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

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Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:33 pm

One of the earliest, if not the earliest, known depiction of a firearm and gunpowder weapon and it is on Buddhist artwork. :rolleye:

First illustration of Fire Lance And a Grenade, 10th Century, Dunhuang. Appears to be a detail from an illustration of Sakyamuni's temptation by Maurya, with the demons at upper right threatening with the fire lance and other weapons while those at lower right tempt with pleasures.

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Re: Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:17 pm

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 at this time. 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

To add...the Dunhang manuscripts stolen from China by the Brits(paid 120 pounds to a monk) about 1900 and some still retained by the Brits, in museum, to include the oldest known writen manuscript of this sort. Like the skull of the apache warrior geronimo thought to being retained by the yale group, skull and bones(Bush Kerry as members) for ceremony of sorts....makes you wonder which side are you on?
Last edited by ronnewmexico on Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:32 pm

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! :applause: )
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Re: Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:47 pm

Yes, could be thinking of the most terrible things, or if this was a cosmopolitan area of diverse interest could it possibly be perhaps a person of Tibetan buddhist influence back in the day making a statement of the Chinese(holders of this weaponry) being negative?

Like in Judism the murderer in the Cain and Abloe story being coincidentally the hunter as opposed to the gather/agricultural person the jews were back in the day......does religion seperate from nationality and cultural bias....

I don't know if this is the case....seems strange of all the weapons available they chose to include the ones most closely identified with saving the chinese empire from invasion.....back in the day.

To add...my antedotal experience is things in a asian context are usually combined with the subtle.
AS per example.....
A heritage thought to be aligned with scholarship as opposed to other, is assailed not by having a direct frontal western attack.....this is wrong for this and that reason..... but by showing as story perhaps.... a ghost who was a scholar (but no mention of the tradition)....shown to be faulted and drawn to spiritual success by learning the correct path. Subtle, but the inferal is clear.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

Postby Indrajala » Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:03 pm

ronnewmexico wrote:Yes, could be thinking of the most terrible things, or if this was a cosmopolitan area of diverse interest could it possibly be perhaps a person of Tibetan buddhist influence back in the day making a statement of the Chinese(holders of this weaponry) being negative?


Interesting idea. Unfortunately I know very little about Buddhist art and Dunhuang is one of those special cases as it was so multicultural.

But still I think your idea might reflect something. It is odd that they'd paint on the wall a weapon that for them would have been a recent invention.

I'd have to look at some scholar's report on this mural and see what they think.
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Re: Early guns and the Buddha. Wow.

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:53 pm

To elaborate a bit, and only a certainly nonprofessional opinion based upon personal observation...

To clarify how perhaps culture reflects in the religious portrayal..

In Tibet after the initial buddhist period, there arose a group called the Hwashang school of Buddhism in Tibet. This was identified as a Chinese school of Buddhism led by a chinese master Hwashang. This school had a large popular following to include many in the noble class of tibet. There was, by royal order, a formal debate by a Indian master of Buddhism, Kamalasila, and Hwashang. The outcome of the debate was determined by the monarch of tibet who considered Kamalasila to win, and by royal decree established indian buddhism with its madhyamaka as the state religion.
Kamalasila was later assinated it appears.

Apparently there is a differing set of criteria establishing these events from the chinese side.

My personal note is from a tibetan perspective these were the three vying powers of the day in that part of asia....india tibet and china. Part of the story from the tibetan side of things has large amounts of tibetans following a master of a chinese school of buddhism, Hwashang.....Now could that happen, considering the vying of interests between tibetan and chinese in Tibet....I'd say no it could not happen. These two groups would always follow the group they were born into and leaders of those respective groups for the most part. A chinese philosophy as opposed to a indian philosophy could not survive in tibet.

The idea of a chinese master Hwashang establishing a large contingent of followers especially notable to include the noble class of tibet...seems highly unlikely. Especially since the nobles would be opposeing china and the motivation for any expansion of tibetan influence into china.

So it seems a religious story like the ghost story depicted....perhaps a bit slanted to show other opinion.
I don't doubt something happened but exactly how and why and the conclusion reached for reasons stated may be questionable.,..

like the depiction of the buddha being shot by firearms there may be more to that story than meets the eye.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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