Monday, May 9, 2016

The Two Generals Heng and Ha

Statues of Generals Heng and Ha
(Image: Zjypw.com 上海彩雲工藝品有限公司; Edited by Harry Leong)

The Two Generals Heng and Ha (哼哈二將 Heng Ha Erjiang) are dvarapadas (守門天 Shoumen Tian; Entryway Guardian Deities) of the Chinese Buddhist tradition. The dvarapada – from Indian Sanskrit – also sometimes translated as door god (門神 Men Shen), is a common architectural feature in both Chinese and Indian cultures. Their images are placed at the entryways and gates of monasteries and temples to avert negative forces and to protect the inner sanctity of the premises.

Images of Generals Heng and Ha at the Shaolin Monastery in Henan province, China
(Image: Original source unknown)

Heng and Ha are also known as Vajra (Adamantine) Warriors (金剛力士 Jingang Lishi), a type of Dharmapala (護法神 Hufa Shen; Buddhist Protector Deity). The most accurate translation of the Indian Sanskrit term vajra is adamantine which is defined as the quality of being unyielding, impenetrable, and invincible. Vajra warriors are usually portrayed as fierce and frightening looking warriors.

Heng and Ha are depicted as wrathful and standing in martial pose. They are barechested, barefoot, and wear only a waist skirted garment. Their muscles are well-developed and defined, and they are often shown carrying a vajra weapon – either a vajra scepter or vajra mallet.

Statues of Generals Heng and Ha
(Image: Original source unknown)

General Heng (哼將 Heng Jiang) is the common name in China for the Indian deity Narayana (那羅延金剛 Naluoyan Jingang; Vajra Warrior Narayana) from who he is originated from. He stands on the left of the main entry gate or temple hall (as one enters a monastery). He is characterized by a closed mouth indicating the vocalization of the Indian Sanskrit sound Hum. His Chinese name, Heng (pronounced hung), was a phonetic approximation of this sound.

General Ha (哈將 Ha Jiang) is the common name for the Indian deity Guhyapada (密跡金剛 Miji Jingang; Vajra Warrior of Secret Signs) from who he is originated from. He stands on the right of the main entry gate or temple hall (as one enters a monastery). He is characterized by an open mouth indicating the vocalization of the Indian Sanskrit sound A (pronounced ah). His Chinese name, Ha, was also a phonetic approximation of this sound.

The two sounds, A and Hum, represent the beginning and the end, the birth and death of all things. The contraction of the two sounds A and Hum becomes Om (Aum) – the mystical sound of the Absolute. 

Wooden statues of Generals Heng and Ha
(Image: Rakuten.com.tw)

Heng and Ha are also not ordinary vajra warriors. The both of them are actually manifestions of Bodhisattva Vajrapani (金剛手菩薩 Jingang Shou Pusa; Vajra Scepter Holding Bodhisattva) who represents the power of all the enlightened buddhas. Vajrapani, in turn, is the wrathful emanation of Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta (大勢至菩薩 Dashizhi Pusa), one of the two principal bodhisattvas of Sukhavati, the western buddha realm of Amitabha (阿彌陀佛 Amituofo).

These two Buddhist guardian deity figures were subsequently borrowed and incorporated into the 16th-century Ming dynasty novel Investiture of the Gods (封神演義 Fengshen Yanyi) as the characters Zheng Lun (鄭倫) and Chen Qi (陳奇). In the novel, General Heng, as the character Zheng Lun, is able to suck in and capture the soul of his opponent with two jets of white breath energy from his nostrils. General Ha, as the character Chen Qi, has the ability to bind his opponent by exhaling a stream of yellow breath energy from his mouth. 

Generals Heng and Ha as Zheng Lun (left) and Chen Qi (right) in Investiture of the Gods
(Image: Redocn.com)


Text © 2016 Harry Leong

2 comments:

  1. Very excited to see this blog is still is active! Will certainly be an avid follower and catch up with previous entries thanks for all the work!

    ReplyDelete