19th century Indonesian matchlock, this weapon is smaller and shorter than the Java arquebus.

Java arquebus (Indonesian and Malaysian: Bedil Jawa) refers to long-barreled early firearm from the Nusantara archipelago, dating back to the early 16th century. The weapon was used by Javanese armies, albeit in low number compared to total fighting men,[1]: 387  before the arrival of Iberian explorers (Portuguese and Spaniards) in the 16th century. In historical records, the weapon may be classified as arquebus or musket.[Note 1]


The term "Java arquebus" is a translation of the Chinese word 爪哇銃 (Zua Wa Chong)[2][3] or 瓜哇銃 (Gua Wa Chong).[4] In the local language the weapon was known by various names, bedil or bedhil is more commonly used. However, this term has a broad meaning — it may refer to various types of firearms and gunpowder weapons, from small pistols to large siege guns. The term bedil comes from wedil (or wediyal) and wediluppu (or wediyuppu) in the Tamil language.[5] In its original form, these words refer to gunpowder blast and saltpeter, respectively. But after being absorbed into bedil in the Malay language, and in a number of other cultures in the archipelago, that Tamil vocabulary is used to refer to all types of weapons that use gunpowder. In Javanese and Balinese the term bedil and bedhil is known, in Sundanese the term is bedil, in Batak it is known as bodil, in Makasarese, badili, in Buginese, balili, in Dayak language, badil, in Tagalog, baril, in Bisayan, bádil, in Bikol languages, badil, and Malay people call it badel or bedil.[5][6][7]


The knowledge of making gunpowder-based weapons in the Nusantara archipelago has been known after the failed Mongol invasion of Java (1293 A.D.).[8]: 1–2 [9][10]: 244–245 [11]: 220  Pole gun (bedil tombak) was recorded as being used by Java in 1413.[12][13]: 245  However the knowledge of making "true" firearms came much later, after the middle of 15th century. It was brought by the Islamic nations of West Asia, most probably the Arabs. The precise year of introduction is unknown, but it may be safely concluded to be no earlier than 1460.[14]: 23 


The Majapahit Empire pioneered the use of the gunpowder-based weapon in the Nusantara archipelago. One account mentions the use of firearm in a battle against Giri forces circa 1500–1506:[15]

... wadya Majapahit ambedili, dene wadya Giri pada pating jengkelang ora kelar nadhahi tibaning mimis ...

... Majapahit troops shooting their firearms (bedil: firearm), while Giri troops fell dead because they couldn't withstand being pierced by bullets (mimis: ball bullet)...

—Serat Darmagandhul[16]: 67–68 [17]: 26, 162 
Detail of the firing mechanism.

This type of arquebus has similarity to the Vietnamese arquebus of the 17th century. The weapon is very long, it may reach 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) in length.[2][18] Tome Pires' 1513 account tells the army of Gusti Pati (Patih Udara), viceroy of Batara Vojyaya (probably Brawijaya or Ranawijaya), numbered 200,000 men, 2,000 of which are horsemen and 4,000 musketeers.[19]: 175–176  Duarte Barbosa ca. 1514 said that the inhabitants of Java are great masters in casting artillery and very good artillerymen. They make many one-pounder cannons (cetbang or rentaka), long muskets, spingarde (arquebus), schioppi (hand cannon), Greek fire, guns (cannons), and other fire-works. Every place are considered excellent in casting artillery, and in the knowledge of using it.[20]: 254 [21]: 198 [22]: 224 

The Chinese people praised Southern country gun:

Liuxianting (劉獻廷—early Qing era geographer) from the Ming and Qing dynasty says: "Southern people are good at gun warfare, and Southern gun is the best under the heavens". Qu Dajun (屈大均) said: "Southern gun, especially the Javanese gun (爪哇銃) is likened to a strong crossbow. They are suspended from their shoulders with ropes, and they will be sent together when they meet the enemy. They can penetrate several heavy armors".[23][24][25]

The Chinese Ming dynasty recorded exports products of Java that were imported to China. These include pepper, sandalwood incense, ivory, horse, iron guns, black slaves, balahu chuan (叭喇唬船—perahu), zhaowa chong (爪哇銃—Javanese gun), and sulfur.[26] The Java gun was preferred by the Ming army because of its flexibility and high accuracy—it was said that the gun can be used to snipe birds.[27] Guangdong Tongzhi (廣東通志), which was compiled as early as 1535, recorded that Java's armored soldiers and guns are the best amongst the Eastern people.[28] The Javanese people use it very skillfully and can accurately hit sparrows. The Chinese also use it. It could break fingers, a palm, and an arm if not used with caution.[27]

Malay peninsula

The Portuguese found various gunpowder weapons after the 1511 conquest of Malacca. It is known that the Malays of Malacca obtained arms from Java.[14]: 21–22  Despite having a lot of artillery and firearms, the weapons were mostly and mainly purchased from the Javanese and Gujarati, where the Javanese and Gujarati were the operators of the weapons. In the early 16th century, prior to the Portuguese arrival, the Malays were a people who lacked firearms. The Malay chronicle, Sejarah Melayu, mentioned that in 1509 they do not understand “why bullets killed”, indicating their unfamiliarity with using firearms in battle, if not in ceremony.[29]: 3  Lendas da India by Gaspar Correia and Asia Portuguesa by Manuel de Faria y Sousa confirmed Sejarah Melayu's account. Both recorded a similar story, although not as spectacular as described in Sejarah Melayu.[30]: 120–121 [31]: 43 

Wan Mohd Dasuki Wan Hasbullah explained several facts about the existence of gunpowder weapons in Malacca and other Malay states before the arrival of the Portuguese:[32]: 97–98 

  1. No evidence showed that guns, cannons, and gunpowder are made in Malay states.
  2. No evidence showed that guns were ever used by the Malacca Sultanate before the Portuguese attack, even from Malay sources themselves.
  3. Based on the majority of cannons reported by the Portuguese, the Malays preferred small artillery.
A Baris Bedil (gun dance) performance in Bali, Indonesia.

In The Commentaries of the Great Afonso Dalboquerque "large matchlock"[Note 2] is frequently mentioned throughout the book. During the first attack of Malacca the approaching Portuguese were shot at by the Moors (muslims) of Malacca:[33]: 103 

Two hours before the break of day Afonso Dalboquerque ordered the trumpet to be blown, in order to awaken them, and they embarked immediately with all the rest of the men-at-arms and went on board his ship, and when a general confession had been made, all set out together and came to the mouth of the river just as morning broke, and attacked the bridge, each battalion in the order which had been assigned to it. Then the Moors began to fire upon them with their artillery, which was posted in the stockades, and with their large matchlocks wounded some of our men.

They are also used when the Portuguese were withdrawing in the first attack:[33]: 108 

When the Moors perceived that they were withdrawing, they began to open fire with large matchlocks, arrows, and blowing-tubes, and wounded some of our men, yet with all the haste they made Afonso Dalboquerque ordered the men to carry off with them fifty large bombards[Note 3] that had been captured in the stockades upon the bridge

Joao de Barros described a scene of the conquest in Da Asia:[34][14]: 22 

As soon as the junk had passed the sand-bank and had come to an anchor, a short way from the bridge, the Moorish artillery opened a fire on her. Some guns discharged leadballs at intervals, which passed through both sides of the vessel, doing much execution among the crew. In the heat of the action Antonio d'Abreu, the commander, was struck in the cheek from a fusil (espingardão), carrying off the greater number of his teeth.

The matchlocks that shoot through both sides of their vessel, had very long barrel and were 18 mm in caliber.[35]

Historian Fernão Lopes de Castanheda mentions matchlocks (espingardão—large espingarda / arquebus), he says that they threw balls, some of stone, and some of iron covered with lead.[36][14]: 22  The son of Afonso de Albuquerque mentioned the armament of Malacca: There are large matchlocks, poisoned blowing tubes, bows, arrows, armour-plated dresses (laudeis de laminas), Javanese lances, and other sorts of weapons.[37][33]: 127  After Malacca was taken by the Portuguese, they captured 3000 of the 5000 muskets which had been furnished from Java.[38]: 96 

Afonso de Albuquerque compared Malaccan gun founders as being on the same level as those of Germany. However, he did not state what ethnicity the Malaccan gun founder was.[33]: 128 [11]: 221 [29]: 4  Duarte Barbosa stated that the arquebus-maker of Malacca was Javanese.[39]: 69  The Javanese also manufactured their own cannon in Malacca.[40] Anthony Reid argued that the Javanese handled much of the productive work in Malacca before 1511 and in 17th century Pattani.[39]: 69 


Jiaozhi arquebus of 1739. Note the simple mechanism.

Đại Việt was considered by the Ming to have produced particularly advanced matchlocks during the 16–17th century, surpassing even Ottoman, Japanese, and European firearms. European observers of the Lê–Mạc War and later Trịnh–Nguyễn War also noted the proficiency of matchlock making by the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese matchlock was said to have been able to pierce several layers of iron armour, kill two to five men in one shot, yet also fire quietly for a weapon of its caliber. The Chinese called this weapon Jiao Chong (交銃, lit. Jiaozhi Arquebus), and noted its similarity to Zhua Wa Chong/Java arquebus.[3][2][18][23][Note 4]

See also


  1. ^ Musket originally refers to a heavier variant of the arquebus, capable of penetrating heavy armor (see Arnold, 2001, The Renaissance at War, p. 75–78). Java arquebus is larger than ordinary arquebus and has good penetration ability.
  2. ^ Written as espingardões (plural) or espingardão (singular).
  3. ^ Bombard is a type of short, large calibre cannon. The Malays of Malacca has bombards which threw leaden shot as large as an espera — a large old kind of artillery. See Birch 1875, p. 121.
  4. ^ It is to be noted that the Vietnamese (Jiaozhi) arquebus may refer to several kind of matchlock weapon: Arquebus in the model of istinggar, arquebus with bipod under the barrel, arquebus with tripod and swivel mount, and jingal-styled arquebus. See Jiaozhi arquebus.


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  7. ^ Rahmawati, Siska (2016). "Peristilahan Persenjataan Tradisional Masyarakat Melayu di Kabupaten Sambas". Jurnal Pendidikan Dan Pembelajaran Khatulistiwa. 5.
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  16. ^ Kalamwadi, Ki (1990). Serat Darmogandhul. Dahara Prize.
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  18. ^ a b 東洋學 硏究所 (Institute of Oriental Studies) (1999). 漢韓大辭典 (Chinese-Korean Dictionary). 檀國大學教出版部 (Dankook University Department of Education and Publication). p. 45. ISBN 9788970922430. 漢,趙曄《吳越春秋,王使公子光傳》以刺王僚,貫甲達背./清,李調元《南越筆記,粵人善鳥槍》其曰爪哇銃者,形如强弩,以繩懸絡臂上,遇敵萬銃齊發,貫甲數重. .《晉書,李歆傳》士業聞,引兵還,爲遜所逼,士業親貫甲先登,大敗之.
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  21. ^ Stanley, Henry Edward John (1866). A Description of the Coasts of East Africa and Malabar in the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century by Duarte Barbosa. The Hakluyt Society.
  22. ^ Partington, J. R. (1999). A History of Greek Fire and Gunpowder. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5954-0.
  23. ^ a b Bozhong, Li (2017). 火槍與帳簿:早期經濟全球化時代的中國與東亞世界 (The Gun and the Ledger: China and the East Asian World in the Age of Early Economic Globalization). Beijing: 三 聯聯書書店店 (Sanlian Bookstore). p. 141. ISBN 978-7-108-05674-0. 在明末,安南人開發出了一種性能優良的火繩槍,中國人稱之為「交銃」(意即交趾火銃)。有人認為這種交銃在威力及性能等方面都優越於西方和日本的「鳥銃」及「魯密銃」。明清之際人劉獻廷說:「交趾......善火攻,交槍為天下最。」屈大均則說:「有交槍者,其曰爪哇銃者,形如強弩,以繩懸絡肩上,遇敵萬銃齊發,貫甲數重。」
  24. ^ Lý Bá Trọng (2019). 火槍與帳簿:早期經濟全球化時代的中國與東亞世界 (Guns and Account Books: China and the East Asian World in the Era of Early Economic Globalization) (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 聯經出版事業公司 (Lianjing Publishing Company). p. 142. ISBN 978-957-08-5393-3. Retrieved 2020-07-12. 明清之際人劉獻廷說:「交善火攻,交槍為天下最。」屈大均則說:「有交槍者,其日爪哇銃者,形如強弩,以繩懸絡肩上,遇敵萬統齊發,貫甲數重。」
  25. ^ Kesheng, Zheng (2021). 明清政争与人物探实 (Political Controversy and Characters in Ming and Qing Dynasties). Beijing Book Co. Inc. ISBN 9787101151480. 同《鸟枪》谈" (趾)枪","其曰爪哇铳者,形如,绳悬络上,遇敌万铳齐发,贯甲重"。同《》谈"洋者为上,其草随而,人得织,然复而不单,单者作细斜纹,洋国人织"。一五《绵布》说"东绵布,苦不一......故东人殓死者为面,是曰洋布,来自番者为"。(47)
  26. ^ Shu, Yuan, ed. (2017). 中国与南海周边关系史 (History of China's Relations with the South China Sea). Beijing Book Co. Inc. ISBN 9787226051870. 一、药材:胡椒、空青、荜拨、番木鳖子、芦荟、闷虫药、没药、荜澄茄、血竭、苏木、大枫子、乌爹泥、金刚子、番红土、肉豆蔻、白豆蔻、藤竭、碗石、黄蜡、阿魏。二、香料:降香、奇南香、檀香、麻滕香、速香、龙脑香、木香、乳香、蔷薇露、黄熟香、安息香、乌香、丁皮(香)。三、珍宝:黄金、宝石、犀角、珍珠、珊瑙、象牙、龟筒、 孔雀尾、翠毛、珊瑚。四、动物:马、西马、红鹦鹉、白鹦鹉、绿鹦鹉、火鸡、白 鹿、白鹤、象、白猴、犀、神鹿(摸)、鹤顶(鸟)、五色鹦鹉、奥里羔兽。五、金 属制品:西洋铁、铁枪、锡、折铁刀、铜鼓。六、布匹:布、油红布、绞布。[4]此 外,爪哇还向明朝输入黑奴、叭喇唬船、爪哇铣、硫黄、瓷釉颜料等。爪哇朝贡贸易 输人物资不仅种类多,而且数虽可观,如洪武十五年(1382年)一次进贡的胡椒就达 七万五千斤。[5]而民间贸易显更大,据葡商Francisco de Sa记载:"万丹、雅加达等港 口每年自漳州有帆船20艘驶来装载3万奎塔尔(quiutai)的胡椒。"1奎塔尔约合59 公斤则当年从爪哇输入中国胡椒达177万公斤。
  27. ^ a b Wenbin, Yan, ed. (2019). 南海文明圖譜:復原南海的歷史基因◆繁體中文版 (Map of South China Sea Civilization: Restoring the Historical Gene of the South China Sea. Traditional Chinese Version). Rúshì wénhuà. p. 70. ISBN 9789578784987. 除了裝備叭喇唬船以外,明朝軍隊還裝備了爪哇產的火器,稱為爪哇銃。這種火銃與爪哇船一樣,也以小巧靈活著名,射擊精度高,可用於打鳥。當時中國進口並裝備軍隊的外國銃不僅來自爪哇,還有佛郎機,即西班牙和葡萄牙。相比之下,「佛郎機銃大、爪哇銃小」,但前者精準度不如後者。《海國廣記》記載,爪哇「甲兵火銃為東洋諸蕃之冠」。《廣東通志》描繪:「爪哇統小,(爪哇)國人用之甚精,小者可擊雀。中國人用之,積不戒 則擊去數指,或斷 , 掌, 臂。
  28. ^ Yuan, Wei (2011). 魏源全集(五) [The Complete Works of Wei Yuan (5)]. Beijing Book Co. Inc. ISBN 9787999009627. 《广东通志》:瓜哇国,古诃陵也。一曰阇婆,又名莆家龙,在真腊之南海中洲上。东与婆利,西与(惰)〔堕〕婆登,北接真腊国,南临大海。自占城起程,顺风二十昼夜可至其国。地广人稠,甲兵药铳为东洋诸番之雄。其港口入去马头曰新村。屋店连行为市,买卖商旅最众。
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  32. ^ Hasbullah, Wan Mohd Dasuki Wan (2020). Senjata Api Alam Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
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  34. ^ De Barros, João (1552). Primeira decada da Asia. Lisboa.
  35. ^ "Fine Malay matchlock musket | Mandarin Mansion". www.mandarinmansion.com. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  36. ^ De Castanheda, Fernão Lopes (1552). História do descobrimento & conquista da India pelos portugueses. Coimbra.
  37. ^ The son of Afonso de Albuquerque (1774). Commentários do Grande Afonso Dalbuquerque parte III. Lisboa: Na Regia Officina Typografica. p. 144.
  38. ^ Egerton, W. (1880). An Illustrated Handbook of Indian Arms. W.H. Allen.
  39. ^ a b Reid, Anthony (1989). The Organization of Production in the Pre-Colonial Southeast Asian Port City. In Broeze, Frank (Ed.), Brides of the Sea: Asian Port Cities in the Colonial Era (pp. 54–74). University of Hawaii Press.
  40. ^ Furnivall, J. S. (2010). Netherlands India: A Study of Plural Economy. Cambridge University Press. p. 9