There are a few books on the art of archery, but cross-cultural observations are rare. Eugen Herrigel, who was born in 1884, seems to be far away from us, but he is actually the first author who opened the door of this kind of oriental art to the western world.
When his observations of the East are used to feed back the East, the meaning is extraordinary, so it is not surprising that Suzuki Dazhuo was invited to write a preface. The book “Archery and Zen Mind: A Western Philosopher’s Record of Zen Enlightenment” (translated by Jin Tingting, Beijing United Publishing Company, 2021) is the latest Chinese translation of the original German work Zen in der Kunst des Bogenschie?ens. Since the first domestic translation titled “Learning Arrows and Enlightenment of Zen” (translated by Yu Xiaohua) in 1993, Guangxi Normal University Press, Sanqin Publishing House and Yunnan People’s Publishing House have competed to retranslate or republish. The more they are printed, the more popular they are. Now there are no less than ten kinds available, and all of them have received high marks and praises. It is really a “phenomenal” little book for everyone.
In the Eastern world, reading something that originally belonged to the East, but has already been stripped of its original color in the consciousness of Orientals, after all, there will be some enlightenment. What’s more, this book has indeed achieved the high-level tension of “thin but thick”, accessible and transparent, compared with the feelings of the times in Persig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” which also involves Zen, Really different.
Bows and arrows are very serious things. As one of the “terrible” inventions in the history of human warfare, the Akkadians in the Mesopotamia were the first people who were good at bows and arrows on the battlefield. When the loose combat formation was no match for Sumer’s strict phalanx, they were “forced” to practice good arrows because they were weak in close combat.
In the Greek epic, the heroic Achilles was killed by an arrow from his heel. We may ask, can an arrow really kill a great hero? Reading it now, this seems like a romantic description. “Homer’s Epic” in the eighth century BC mentioned that Apollo used a pair of good bows and arrows. The sculpture image of Apollo, which is often seen in European temples, is a young man with long hair and no beard who carries a bow with him.
There have always been good archers in the war between Greece and Troy. In the famous confrontation between Odysseus and Philoctetes on the island, bows and arrows were indispensable; there were also many archers on the Trojan side. As for the troops of the Roman Republic, according to the research of historians, the use of archers is very limited, far from that of England in the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the first episode of “Tudor Dynasty”, the king said vigorously during the hunt that Henry V was his idol, “he was able to fight against tens of thousands of French soldiers with three thousand longbows” and so on; indeed, during the Hundred Years War between England and France, England The human longbow played against France, shocking all directions. The “favored” Henry V in Shakespeare’s works is the commander who can best use the power of the longbowman. The longbow is such a glorious weapon.
With more efficient firearms, bows and arrows seem to have lost most of their actual combat significance. But it must still be noted that at the same time, compared with the early archers, people’s understanding of bows and arrows is evolving silently. Although there have been many research works on archery (Tao) and bow-making techniques in the East and West, perhaps only in Japan has its significance climbed to a truly breath-taking level of thought.
The formation of modern Japanese archery is generally counted from the promotion of “Tangshe” in the modern Edo period. It used to be an exclusive weapon belonging to the samurai class. As bows and arrows were no longer dominant on the battlefield and experienced a major change in the Muromachi era, martial artists cut down, summarized and refined the actual combat content of bows. Make it more of a way to practice and temper the body and mind.
This volume “Archery and Zen Mind” is unfolding accordingly. The German author Heligel was a doctor of Western philosophy and received a doctorate from the University of Tokyo in Japan. After 1951, he lived in seclusion in Garmisch, Germany until his death in 1955. In addition to some philosophical works and this volume “Archery and Zen Mind”, he also has a posthumous manuscript “The Way of Zen” (Der Zen-Weg). In the final analysis, his book “Archery and Zen Mind” has the greatest influence and has been spread all over the world for fifty years.
The book is thin, but it contains quite a lot of drama and connotation. The reason why the words are convincing is largely based on his own hard experience in learning archery, especially when he describes that he has repeatedly pondered and failed to get in. It always feels a bit like the stage of breaking through the barriers of self and body and mind in Zen Buddhism.
When he first started, good archery was a skill Heligel could not dream of, and he also lamented that he was “trying the impossible” many times. When he finally broke through the idea of ”little tricks” and several technical bottlenecks that he could not overcome for a long time, readers outside the book wanted to applaud him with high fives.
In the stories of our nation, “bow” or “arrow” has always been handed down in martial arts, but it is rarely linked to the word “practice”, except for two well-known metaphors in Zen Buddhism – the dialogue between Mazu Daoyi and Shi Gong “I can shoot a group of people with one arrow”, which moved Shi Gong, who is a hunter, to let him put down his bow and arrow in relief. No matter how many bloody storms these people who have been tempered on the battlefield have witnessed, when they calm down again, they always love to find a way of cultivation that suits them.
People can’t help asking, a wooden bow is like a yin and yang, and it is also like a compass pointer, but its physical structure and mechanical structure are simple after all. Why is it always chosen by those practitioners as a way of practicing to reflect the mind like a mirror? Is it just the practitioner’s own exaggeration?
It is different from equestrianism, which pursues the unity of man and horse, or the competition between man and bull in bullfighting, and also different from the tumbling and retreating of ideas in fencing or kendo. What archery tests is the concentration and final “movement” of a person in the most quiet moment. When the idea is pure; if I let the author make an analogy, its “movement in stillness” fits very well with the “stillness in movement” of marathon sports.
The warrior’s participation in the moment of fear, the level of its arrival, and the description of Zen by Master Dao’an (who had a great influence on Fo Tucheng): “Thunder cannot frighten one’s thoughts, and fire cannot hurt one’s thoughts.” (“” “Human Ben Desire to Live Sutra Notes”) and even various “divine transformations” (“Anban Notes Preface”) were born.
There is an early Japanese black-and-white feature film that was not very popular, the film “Sanjusangendo Archery Story” directed by Mikio Naruse, many scenes in the film can reflect the scenes in “Archery and Zen Mind”. All kinds of situations are written, such as the momentum when kneeling, picking up the bow and setting the arrow, and restoring the structure of the wooden bow at that time. The wooden bow looks simple, but the long lines and arcs are beautiful. With the gestures and gestures of the warriors and even the smiles before shooting the arrows, the staged ritual sense contained in it can be seen at a glance. It is not a simple thing.
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