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Recently, I requested Muju, the internationally-renowned artist (known for her 40k fanart,) to draw a Space Marine based on Buddhist aesthetics. I've been trying to apply East Asian art to Space Marines as a variation on a theme (as they are typically depicted in a Western-style,) just to bring more diversity to "the Hobby."
Why link Space Marines to Buddhism? My thoughts were, the Adeptus Astartes are warrior monks that worship a deity that transcended the mortal realm (and was the reincarnation of the souls of previous sages.) They already sound like Shaolin monks to me, except in the year 40,000 and grimdark. Thus, I'm not forcing a gimmick onto a Space Marine Chapter design, I just think it's quite a natural fit. Then Muju drew this awesomeness:
I love Muju's pencil style to begin with, but check out some of her details:
- an Iron Halo (or Psychic Hood) as a Buddhist Dharma Wheel
- Skull Servitors bearing scripture scrolls, floating like a moving Buddhist rosary
- the floating scarf similar to Buddhist temple guardian statues
- a different shoulder pad from pauldrons, bearing an image of the Emperor on his Golden Throne Lotus
I wish to create a Chapter around this design, keeping its East Asian aesthetics as the central theme. In particular, I seek your advice please on:
- Chapter color scheme
- Chapter name
- Which codex to use
- Existing samples you've seen
- Other awesome ideas you may have
At the moment, I'm considering using the more obscure successor Chapters (as not to contradict existing fluff):
Angels Vermillion: this Blood Angels successor can use their awesome codex, plus the word "Vermillion" has a relevant synonym, "China Red"
Marauders: a successor to White Scars, which I believe is the most East Asian of the Founding
Chapters...and I can transcribe the name into Chinese as Mo Rou Da (魔蹂打,) which roughly means "trample and beat devils"
Thank you in advance for your thoughts. I am really open to all ideas (e.g. I named this character Arjuna for an anon's feedback in the initial drawthread.) Just a few IMPORTANT NOTES:
- Seriously, I welcome all ideas. If you want to make this a Space Wolf successor, I'd love to hear why
- Yes, I've looked at Mark Dewis's Samurai-styled Jade Warriors and thought they were cool
- I know the 1st of Buddhism's 5 Precepts is to abstain from taking life. Xenos are not lives...they're a disease
First off, I love this idea. Particularly, that you're attempting to work within established Astartes canon when establishing your fluff. I have some comments:
- I would recommend starting a Chapter from scratch, which would ensure you do not violate existing fluff. The List of Space Marine Chapters should help you pick an unused one, as well as give you some inspiration.
- Blood Angels Codex would work, but ultimately I feel the Space Wolves give off that spiritual vibe a lot more (Talismans, Runes, animalism, etc). I could much more readily justfiy Counter Attack than Furious Charge for Buddhist-themed marines.
- Using a successor to White Scars is an excellent idea fluff wise however. But remember, just because they are successors, does not mean they have to embody the same style of warfare. It would be entirely appropriate to base a White Scars successor chapter on the Space Wolves Codex, in my opinion. In fact, if Space Wolves allowed Bikers as Troops, I'm sure many more players would.
- To get around the issue of the First Precept, look to the Four Noble Truths:
1. The Astartes would recognise that the Emperor was a supremely enlightened being, the Buddha (who discovers the truth by himself and teaches the path to awakening to others). He saw that there was suffering (First Noble Truth) caused by craving (Second Noble Truth). To eliminate suffering, one must eliminate craving (Third Noble Truth) by following the path of the Buddha (Fourth Noble Truth, leading to the Noble Eightfold Path).
2. [Chapter Name] also accept that suffering exists. But the Emperor sought to save humanity from it's excesses and cravings (which, one could argue, caused the Chaos Gods to grow stronger), and the Chapter follows his path. While his path may bring the Chapter to cause suffering, it is accepted that suffering exists, and the purpose of causing it is ultimately to save humanity from it. In short: the end justifies the means. The Chapter accepts that they are tools used for a loftier purpose and while they can never reach enlightenment, they hope their sacrifice will help the rest of humanity.
3. Alternatively, you could argue the Chapter does believe they can become Bodhisattvas (one who follows the Buddha's path) by emulating his example as much as possible. Since the Emperor himself battled and fought for humanity, they must do the same to reach enlightenment.
4. Or, as you have pointed out, note that anything not subscribing the principles the Emperor laid down, such as Xenos or Chaos - are undeserving of life and must be purged for humanity to reach enlightenment as a whole, as they are the cause of suffering.
There's a lot of scope for this. You can twist it however you want in order to justify mass-murder on an epic scale, but remember: this is Grimdark, you can't escape that! Even the best and most worthwhile ideals in 40k are inhuman reflections of their real world counterparts.
- Further thoughts on Codex: Space Wolves. Rune Priests would be great for representing more enlightened Astartes who have achieved a state of Zen, who teach the spiritual principles to the others. You could take this further and only use the defensive powers. Wolf Talismans and so on could be represented by rosaries or prayer scrolls, and so on.
I think this is a fantastic idea, and I look forward to seeing how your ideas develop!
Regarding starting a Chapter from scratch, I am now completely convinced you are right. I'm looking at the history of Buddhism for an appropriate Chapter name. I would welcome your suggestions, as well as anyone here that wishes to contribute.
On using the Space Wolves codex, that is awesome. In my initial post, I called that out because I thought it was a far-fetched idea to open up creative feedback...because thematically they're futuristic Vikings, which is like the polar opposite of our theme here! However, your reasoning has completely turned me around on my false assumption.
I read your point about the Counter-Attack Troop and the Rune Priest, then I re-read the 5th ed codex. You are right, Space Wolves fit perfectly, as long as the appropriate units/wargear are chosen. Even looking at things like Mark of the Wulfen, when I looked past its name to the actual rules, they can easily apply to a martial arts expert fighting unarmed rather than a frenzied berzerker!
Thanks also for sticking up for the idea, I wish I had more friends like you. But to be honest, looking at the history of Buddhism, it turns out there's a long tradition of violence. I thought China's Shaolin temple was the most extreme, but then I looked at the Japanese Sohei and Yamabushi...man, they were scary. And here's an interesting piece of trivia - Buddha himself was born into the kshatriya caste...a warrior caste. That was fascinating to me.
The whole idea has fascinated me, and I don't treat it as just my own. It really started as a discussion on an imageboard that lead to Muju creating the above masterpiece. Then, listening to your deep insights, I realize this is a concept that many have contemplated. There's something here that transcends cultures and borders, and that part is truly awesome. I mean...bro, Space Wolf Kung Fu Monks.
I think this is the best army concept I have heard in a long, long time. Big respect to you sir.
As for names, how about adapting the names of some kung fu styles? Like Black Tigers, or White Cranes, or Heaven's Fists.
There is a fine book "Japanese Design Motifs" by Fumie Adachi with over 4000 Illustrations of Japanese Crests. They would do quite well as symbols for chapters.
Be sure not to use mix Indian/hindu believe with Taoism and Confuzianism, which are much more typical Chinese, I personally could not stand Japanese letters and symbols mixed with Shivas wheel. I'd rather choose a very clear historical time and country and then research a lot. In most cases there are quite surprising things to learn, which all helps to make a good fluffy army.
I could imagine that thy typical chinese communism color schemes or imperial japanese (1860-1945) color schemes and symbols fit well for an imperial army (thought of this morning), maybe this could fit to a eastern style chapter as well. I mean, theres lots of nice possibilities here.
I nevertheless would invest creativity more into a TAU army, which design is by nature east asian style.
When it comes to spiritual things, I actually don't recommend buddhism or hinduism for space marines, they are clearly believing in monotheism. ZEN Buddhism with a nationalistic impact, such as was the case in Japan would be the only east asian religious system anywhere near the 40k Universe, imho.
Im sorry. But Tau are not the Japanese army of 40k. Craftworld Eldar are. Think of your classic Japanese mech. Sleek, smooth, thin and with long arms and what not. Think of an eldar Wraithlord. Think of a tau battle suit. And the Eldar have SHURIKEN launchers. That japanese enough for you?
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.”
It's a very ambiguous doctrine, but in certain texts it's either outright stated or strongly implied that killing can be a morally correct action for Buddhists, even ordained Buddhists. What matters is whether by killing you prevent a person from accruing negative karma at some future point. If you do, then taking on bad karma yourself by killing that person is considered selfless and meritorious.
In Aum Shinrikyo this was called Po'a, but they had a long history of altering and adopting terms from across the Buddhist world, so I'm unsure whether such a belief had a name in other Buddhist traditions. It certainly existed though. You never get the same idea of a 'holy war' as in Christianity or Islam, but that's more due to the lack of unified religious authority and doctrine.
You could also borrow the concept of purity.. In traditional buddhism, coming into contact with blood, dead bodies, unprepared hides and so forth was considered to taint a person merely by association. Likewise, for 'Buddhist style' marines, perhaps coming into contact with aliens or the forces of chaos could be a source of pollution. The marines would thus consider their karmic duty to be killing aliens and chaos to prevent others (civilians and guardsmen for example) accruing negative karma, or if those people can't be saved then killing them to save them from pollution and allowing them to die with a karmically clean slate.
Buddhism is in my opinion a perfect source for 40k. It has its unrelentingly grim bits as much as the Catholic church has done in the past.
Last edited by The_Giant_Mantis; October 26th, 2010 at 01:18.
I was returning here to say I'm wrapping up the ideas I've gotten here in combination with the research I've been doing from reading and visiting Buddhist shrines, only to find the topic has been resurrected. Man, this has been fun...and we've only just begun.
I even liked the branching out to Chinese Communist theme. For a long time, I was thinking of doing Angels Vermillion in a Chinese Red Army style. Why? Vermillion is also known as "China Red;" I love me some puns. But I dropped that idea since that's better suited for Imperial Guard IMHO.
I also acknowledge that Tau is the most intuitive fit...but then, I'm can't any value-add there. However, I bow my head towards the Eldar idea. Central to Buddhist thought is that desire is the source of suffering. The Eldar put that in 1 word...Slaanesh. THAT is the perfect fit (so I'll make that my follow-up project with the Dark Eldar Mandrake, ha!)
And here, I don't mind being wrong about everything else because it seems I got 1 thing right...that diversity only reveals similarities. From the beginning, I said I wanted to introduce a different perspective without "forcing a gimmick." And the common vibe has been like:
"Wow, that's a completely fresh spin on...wait, no, hang on...it's the same old thing, isn't it?"
So I was going to mention on several forums to say that I'm consolidating all your ideas. This has so grown that I no longer consider it my own concept. If people ask me if this was my idea, I'd say, "No, it's from the collective hivemind that is teh Interwebs."
My role now is merely that of an editor...which is actually quite fun and challenging. I was also going to say that you might be surprised and disagree with some of those editorial decisions...but I read something in the most recent posts that got me real excited.
Now I'm normally I'm a black & white, Rorschach "no compromise even in the face of Armageddon" kind of guy that sees the middle road of an argument as the lazy path, but reading about Buddhism softened me as of late. So I'm starting to love that sentiment. Then I read this:
So, please stay tuned for how all this will come together! I know many of you believe may of your ideas should be separate, but if I learned 1 thing about Buddhism, it's that it doesn't just adopt new ideas...it swallows them whole. And that's turning out to be the fun part.
The Tau are a young race in the "eastern sector" that is freshly arising and competeing with the empire. For me, this is clearly kind of an asian tiger country, japan or china it self. They are altruistic in a way like an ideal communism would be.
I also reminding myself, reading in a white dwarf that the Tau army as a whole was actually inteded to look like a anime style army. The anime style is also a japanese invention, but it is now a common design for all east asian countries. Its just a design style though and does not forcibly reflect japanese culture by itself.
The Tau also came into the market in a time typical for the time conquering a asian markets for companies, hoping to appeal with asian customers with anime style material. Wizards of the coast at that time tried it with the Kamigawa set just shortly after.