chapter  5
37 Pages

Chinese-style gunpowder weapons in Southeast Asia: focusing on archeological evidence SUN LAICHEN

Only new implements are prized ( 器尚惟新 ). 2 Le Thanh-tong’s (r. 1460-97) edict in 1464

As to their marriage-rites [in Java]: the man fi rst goes to the woman’s family house, and the marriage is consummated; three days later the man escorts his bride [home]; whereupon the man’s family beat brass drums and brass gongs, blow on coconut-shell pipes, strike drums made of bamboo tubes, and let off guns ( huochong ) . . . 3

Observation by Ma Huan accompanying the Chinese eunuch Admiral Zheng He’s Java expedition

in the early fi fteenth century

In my previous research, I have discussed the spread of Chinese gunpowder technology to, and its impact on, mainland Southeast Asia, especially Dai Viet (north Vietnam), from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries. 4 Despite little archeological evidence and a few illustrations, my main sources so far have been historical written accounts. Thus, one may wonder, with justifi cation, whether these written records are supported by archeological evidence. In other words, if the Vietnamese learned about gunpowder technology from China, how surviving fi rearms support this point; if the argument is that Chinese-style or Chinese-derived gunpowder technology had affected the history of mainland Southeast Asia, Dai Viet in particular, then what those weapons (gun and cannon) looked like and whether they are still available or not. Part 1 of this research aims at providing an answer to these questions. Moreover, it tries to estimate the percentage of the Vietnamese troops that employed gunpowder weapons in the second half of the fi fteenth century.