type A tiger bells have the widest distribution area. They occur
in many countries in Northwest, Southwest and Southeast Asia and
in Europe (Russia, Malta).
the tiger bells are clearly of Chinese origin, few tiger bells are
reported in mainland China. However in the northeast and in the
south of China these bells are found with ethnic minorities that
practice animism and shamanism.
regions in Asia and with most ethnic groups, the type A tiger bells
are related to shamanism and magic. In regions of Afghanistan and
Pakistan with a shamanic pre-Islamic past these tiger bells were
used as dance bells and amulets for animals.
groups that use the type A tiger bells for animals, these animals
often have a special religious (dogs in Tibet) or supernatural (cats
with the Minangkabau) status. With the Akha (Chang Mai region) and
in one case in Burma, type A tiger bells seem to have been used
for animals without any supernatural connotation.
numbers of type A tiger bells are found in the northern, southern
and western extremes of the distribution area, from SE Siberia to
SE Asia to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
- In Southeast Siberia, Northeast China and Mongolia these bells
were, and still are, used by shamans.
Siberian shamanism used to be practiced by ethnic groups in SE Siberia
(Ewenk, Nanay, Gilyak, etc.), NE China (Manchuria and Inner Mongolia:
Solon, Manjagir), Mongolia and Tuva, etc.
- In insular SE Asia these bells are found in large amounts in areas
such as in Borneo (Sarawak and Kalimantan) and the Southern Philippines.
The Iban and Bidayu Dayak from Sarawak have the largest numbers
of tiger bells and use these bells as amulets and in shamanic rituals.
In the southern Philippines (Mindanao, Mindoro) tiger bells are
used as amulets and dance bells.
- In the Afghanistan-Pakistan area they occur in large numbers with
Muslim groups with a shamanic past such as the Hazara.
in a bazaar in Istanbul, three classic type A tiger bells were found.
It has not yet been ascertained that they are connected to one or
more ethnic groups in Turkey.
several dozens of tiger bells are in still in use by horse owners.
The bells arrived in Malta at the end of the 19th century or the
beginning of the 20th century. Malta was then part of the British
Empire, together with other countries such as Hong Kong.
A tiger bells are found in Singapore, in China, Mongolia, Korea,
Japan and South Siberia. New variations of the type A tiger bells
are sold in Asia; in the Western world they are sold in Chinese
shops and via Internet. These new bells are mass produced in China
and possibly in Taiwan and Japan.
2000 mass production of these new bells has started in factories
Tiger bells type B have a smaller distribution area, restricted
to the East Asian continent. They do not occur in insular SE Asia,
and are rare in the Chinese and Siberian north east. However on
the East Asian mainland the bells are very common and mostly used
as animal bells, for yaks, horses and cows. In Nepal, Tibet and,
occasionally, in Northeast China, B type tiger bells are used by
shamans. In Thailand these bells are for sale in large numbers in
handicraft shops but it was not clear what they were used for. One
shopkeeper told me that they are sometimes used as door knobs in
Chinese type houses.
Tiger bells type C are found in Nepal, where they are very common,
in Bhutan and possibly in Tibet. These bells, tied to belts and
chains are used by shamans, and for animals. The bells are reported
to be produced in India (Dehra Dun, Rajpur). There is one report
of a type C tiger bell in Mindoro (The Philippines).
Until now, tiger bells type D have been found in small numbers in
Vietnam, Burma and probably Laos. They are used as horse bells (Vietnam,
Laos) and as a musical instrument (Burma).
several places variations of the type A bell and B bells are found.
Alternative type A bells from Nepal, Syria and China and alternative
type B bells from Bangladesh are examples. Some variations occur
in large numbers. Many of these bells are newly made. An alternative
bell from Kazakhstan is possibly old
to very old.
tiger bells present
There are no reports of tiger bells in Sikkim, Sri Lanka and most
of Islamic Southwest and Islamic West Asia (except Turkey and Syria).
Focus on tiger
bells type A
distribution patterns and the information available on the types
B, C, D and the Alternatives are either too general (type B) or
too limited (type C and D) to come to any conclusions on their age
and history. The Alternatives have too many differences in design
and distribution and the majority is, most likely, recently made.
The tigerbell from Kazakhstan is possibly
an exception. The bell is a mix of type A, type B and type C elements.
It dates from the 13th - 15th century and thus its presence coincides
with the Mongol invasions. Distribution
could have taken place by the Mongol arrnies and their shamans or
by traders traveling along the Silk route.
A tiger bells are distributed in distinct patterns and over often
identifiable groups of people. These bells were and are highly valued
and sometimes revered by their owners who went to great length to
obtain them. This and their enormous distribution area, make these
bells a better subject to try to follow them through time and location
over the Asian continent. Therefore I will concentrate on the classic
type A tiger bell.
of the classic tiger bells
On the age of the tiger
bells information varies. The estimates given here are from new
one Tagakaolu tribesman (from Mindanao, the Philippines) said that
the tiger bells in possession of the group were older than
fifty years. This estimate gave more an impression of a
very long time than an accurate estimate.
several dozens of tiger bells were bought by local horse owners.
They claim that these bells are more than one hundred years
old (reported in 2011).
dealer in Nanking sold one tiger
bell of a rough A type and said that the bell was from the Kuang
Hsu dynasty which ruled from 1875 - 1908. The bell would be
about 100 to 150 years old.
bell of which the design is a variation close to the classic
tiger bells, is said to originate from the Manchu Qing dynasty
(AD 1644 - 1911).
book The costume of the Russian
Empire an illustration of a shaman's costume from the Mongols
is shown. Attached to the costume are bronze mirrors and several
bronze bells, possibly tiger bells. The book was published in 1803;
the travels the book describes took place at the end of the 18th
one bell from Afghanistan
is presented as dating from 1700 - 1800 AD.
The same company offers a
bell from Pakistan dating from 1600 - 1700 AD.
Thus the age of the bells would be about 300 to 400 years old. (However
the link of the arrival of these bells with the Mongolian armies
and their Hazara and Turkic soldiers could bring the age back to
the 15th and even the 13th century.)
bell offered on E-bay is from the Middle
East (no country or region is given) and is presented as being
from the 15th to the 16th century.
two tiger bells from Russia that were found in a potato field
near Tver (150 km. northwest of Moscow) can probably be dated as
from the Mongol invasions in the 13th to 15th century.
Coins that were found in the neighborhood of the bells date from
the 16th century. The history of one tiger bell in Kazakhstan
is probably also related to these Mongol invasions.
dealer in Singapore, Tiepolo's Mr.David Mun, said
that the bells were not older than 600 to 700 years
and probably from what he calls the Han dynasty (this is
a problem since in the chronology the Han dynasty iss from appr.
200 BC to 200 AC).
curio and antique dealer Eddy Lauren in Legian, Bali, stated
that a small tiger bell from Timor
was from 'before Majapahit', about 1300 AD, so older
than 700 years.
and Tungus-expert, the late Mr. S.
M. Shirokogoroff dated the emergence of Siberian shamanism
during the 11th century. That included the development
of ceremonies, the role and presence of the drum and the costume,
with its metal attributes such as bronze mirrors (toli) and tiger
bells. That would mean that the oldest tiger bells could be dated
at the same period: appr. 900 years ago, or, possibly,
Ulbrich and Bui Kim Dinh from Vietnam reported a tiger
bell from Northern Vietnam. The bell's age was estimated at about
1000 years by an antique dealer and expert. This would
bring the age close to the Tang dynasty given by the following estimate:
dealer in Klaten (Mr. Om Bram, East Java) had a small A type
tiger bell. According to him the bell was from the Tang dynasty,
about 600 to 900 AD. That would set the bells' age at about 1100
years. During the Tang dynasty large scale production of
small and medium sized bronze objects using the lost wax process
took place, among them mirrors and bells, among them most likely
Large scale production
of small bronze objects such as tiger bells and mirrors started
in the Tang period, about 600 to 900 AD.
estimates of the emergence of Siberian shamanism, and the large
scale use of paraphernalia such as tiger bells and mirrors with
it, at about 900 years ago during the 11th century..
With the rise of the Mongolian empire, with shamanism as the court
religion, and the expeditions of the Mongolian armies over the Asian
continent, the remarkable distribution of tiger bells was effected
during a period of about 200 years, from about 1300 to 1500 AD.
are many variations in the design and the quality of the classic
tiger bells. They were produced with the lost wax process,
probably using clay and creamic molds and stamps. Because of the
wide distribution area and the sometimes large concentrations found,
type A tiger bells must have been produced on a large scale, probably
by the thousands. This would explain the many variations: even using
molds or stamps, the lost wax process could not guarantee identical
products: molds wear out, stamps are made again and again from copies
made of copies. However the basic motif has remained remarkably
bells larger than about 2,5 cm. have different sides, notable in
the characters and minor differences in the design. The smaller
bells have identical sides.
bells were produced in batches. Through time, different molds were
used: tiger bells from Afghanistan, Pakistan and East Kalimantan
are almost identical; some Iban bells and the bell from the Bahau
Dayak are identical to the Kaudern bell from Sulawesi.
look new, others are roughly finished. With some bells the motif
has changed, the lines are of poor quality, hoops are rough, or
round instead of rectangular, the hole in the hoop sometimes not
centered. These things indicate mass-production with at times less
strict quality control. The center of production, and probably also
the origin of the tiger bells, is almost certainly in Northcentral
China (see below). There is one indication of supporting production
facilities in another part of Asia (Taiwan) but most likely the
majority came from Central China region.
paper An investigation of early Chinese bronze mirrors at the
Harvard University Art Museums by Susan D. Costello (2014),
the author studies the museum's collection of ancient bronze Chinese
objects such as vessels, Buddhist sculptures, bells and mirrors.
The study concentrates on the mirrors but many
of the statements also apply to the production of other bronze
objects such as the tiger bells and bronze mirrors that have been
used for hundreds of years by East Asian shamans. Early bronze mirrors
were already produced during the Shang (1600 BC - 1050 BC) and Zhou
(1046 BC - 256 BC) periods. They were used as decoration and as
ritual attributes. The religion in those periods was shamanism.
From the Warring States period (475 - 206 BC until the end of the
Tang period (618 - 906 AC) the production of mirrors and other small
and middle sized bronze objects flourished. During the Tang dynasty
large numbers of mirrors, and possibly tiger bells, were produced
because of the introduction of the lost wax process that made the
large scale production of bronze objects possible. After the Tang
dynasty the lost wax process got out of use and the production of
small bronze objects gradually declined. However the mirrors and
other objects such as the tiger bells continued to be used in the
shamanic rituals of certain groups of people in East Asia. Among
these people there remained a continuous demand for these objects.
scale production declined after the Tang period. This could mean
that tiger bells were produced during the Tang period during a
period of appr. 300 years, wherein the entire stock, many thousands,
was produced and distributed. Possibly the production centre was
in or near Xi'an (North Central China), the capital of the Tang
is possible that after the Tang period production of small bronze
objects, and tiger bells in particular, continued on a smaller
scale and in different locations because of the continuous demand
for these objects. The variations in design and quality over the
time support that idea. However if workshops were still active
at f.e. the end of the 18th or 19th century at least some things
would have been known about locations and centers of production.
For now, when it comes to the type A tiger bells nothing is known
in the 11th century the Siberian shamanism complex was fully developed,
the attributes that were already in use, such as the bronze mirrors
and tiger bells were available in large numbers.
the growing influence of Buddhism, shamanism and the use of ritual
objects gradually disappeared from the main Chinese cultural scene,
dominated by the Buddhist Han Chinese, remaining only in areas
with ethnic minorities that continued to profess shamanism in
the high north (Manchus, Tungus, Mongolians) and the south: ethnic
groups in SE Asia and insular SE Asia.
tiger bells were produced in other places in Asia, by local craftsmen.
article on the social status of users of different types of tiger
bells among the Puyuma of Taiwan author
Lancini Jen-Hao Cheng suggests that tiger bells have been
and still are produced in Taiwan.
of the tiger bells are made in a workshop in Peking.
made alternative bell from Syria, for sale in hardware stores, is
said to be produced locally. However the bell is identical to an
similar bell from Korea, also newly made.
the year 2000 one and possibly more industrial factories in east
China produce tiger bells in large quantities. These bells are offered
on Internet websites all over the world, where they are often presented
as old or antique bells. The new bells from southern Mongolia, the
bells from Korea, several examples based on the design from the
Qing dynasty and other alternative bells were most likely produced
in this factory.
thousands...how many tiger bells are we talking about?
How many classic type A tiger bells have been produced is unknown
but let us try to make a calculated guess:
an idea of the number of bells in one costume let's have a look
at the shaman's costume from the Solon
in the Copenhagen museum. This is a fine example of the costume
as it was used by many shamans in the area comprising NE China (Mancuria),
Inner Mongolia, SE Siberia and East Mongolia. How many shamans were
active in that area at the height of shamanism is unknown but since
families and villages had their own shaman the number must have
been in the hundreds if not thousands. The Solon costume has in
total 61 tiger bells attached. This is a large number bur fairly
normal for that kind of costume. In a wider area the number of tiger
bells on one costume is less. Many costumes have only two or three
tiger bells or none. So let's set the average number at 50 tiger
bells per costume including the other accessories (such as boxes,
horse staves, ritual whips, etc.). If we set the number of shamans
at 1000 at one point in time, we are dealing with 50.000 tiger bells.
Again: this is a guess and the number is probably higher. Many of
these costumes were destroyed in the beginning of the 20th century.
Exact numbers of how many were destroyed are not available, as we
also do not know what happened to the metal objects that were confiscated.
bells were produced using the lost wax process. Let us assume that
In a primitive foundry production time of one tiger bell could be
about 1 or 2 hours. That means the 50.000 bells could have been
produced in roughly 50 to 100 years. But this is a wild guess and
I will try to find a more accurate estimate.
bells in insular SE Asia
In the Philippines, no
tiger bells have been reported in North Luzon. We do find tiger
bells in Mindoro (with the Manggyan), and in Palawan (the Tagbanwa).
In South East Mindanao many tiger bells are found with several groups:
Tagakaolu, Bagobo, B'laan, Mandaya, Manuvu. Other, sometimes neighboring
groups in the region (T'boli, their neighboring B'laan, Tiruray)
do not have tiger bells. The groups that have tiger bells also practice
a different kind of gong chime playing technique: the gongs are
suspended on a vertical frame. Groups without tiger bells such as
most of the Muslim groups and the T'boli, play the gong chime on
a horizontal frame.
In the Muslim region
(West Mindanao and the Sulu Archipel), several tiger bells have
been reported with the Maranaw and there is a report of tiger bells
used as money 'in the Moro south'. The name 'Moro south' is sometimes
used as a generic term for the non-Christian areas in Mindanao.
In Kalimantan (Indonesian
Borneo) tiger bells are common and used in large numbers with groups
such as the Kenyah, Kayan and Benuaq Dayak. The Ngadju are one large
Dayak group without tiger bells.
In Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), tiger bells are common and used in
large numbers with the Iban and the Bidayu Dayak. No tiger bells
were reported with the Kelabit Dayak and the Melanau Dayak.
of the Iban of Sarawak
The Iban arrived in Borneo around 1675. They came over sea
from Sumatra, Indonesia (hence the name Sea Dayak). DNA research
has shown that their ancestors lived on the SE Asian mainland (the
Thai Yuan), possibly in what is now northern Thailand, an area that
is home to a number of ethnic groups that until today practice shamanism
and used (and possibly still use) tiger bells (Karen, Akha, Hmong).
It is possible that the Iban's ancestors, the Thai Yuan, brought
their tiger bells from the SE Asian mainland, first to their location
on Sumatra, then to Borneo. Possibly the growing influence of Islam
in Sumatra forced the Iban's ancestors to leave the island.
Neo-Siberians and Paleo-Siberians
Siberia classic tiger bells occur in large numbers on the shaman costumes
of ethnic groups belonging to the Neo-Siberians, e.g. the Ewenk and
Nanay With these groups the shaman's costume is much more elaborately
decorated than with groups belonging to the Paleo-Siberians. The Paleo-Siberian
Gilyak are an exception: their shamanistic practices and attributes
were strongly influenced by their immediate neighbor, the Neo-Siberian
few reports of tiger bells in mainland China
Although all tiger bells evidently demonstrate a Chinese origin, reports
of tiger bells in mainland China are scarce. However in the far North
and in the South tiger bells occur much more often. The bells are
used as horse bells or as an amulet, in local or regional folklore,
among ethnic minorities with shamanistic traditions. Concentrations
are found in Yunnan in the south. Very large numbers of tiger bells
occurred in the north, in former Mancuria and Inner Mongolia where
they are an indispensable part of the shaman costume.
Tiger bells do not occur
among the Han Chinese (China's main ethnic group), mainly because
before communist rule they used to be Buddhist, China's major religion
since appr. 200 BC. With the rule of the Manchu Qing dynasty in
the 16th century shamanism became the court religion. It was however
never adopted by the Han Chinese.
and bronze objects in SE Siberia, NE China and Mongolia
The rituals of Siberian shamanism are best known from pictures and
recordings of séances by the shamans of the Ewenk and related
groups. Characteristic are the drum and a special costume decorated
with many metal objects such as bronze mirrors, many bronze tiger
bells and bells of other types (clapper bells, conical bells). This
means that tiger bells could very well be in use in or before the
11th century (the period that Siberian shamanism found its definite
format). Craftsmanship to produce these objects was since long present:
bronze mirrors were already known long before the 11th century and
the bronze casters of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600 - 250 BC)
were capable of casting bronzes of incredible complexity. Vessels
in various shapes and large and small bells, either crotal or clapper
bells were used in shamanic rituals, first in Central China, later
in the east.
and revival of shamanism in the former Soviet Union and China
At the beginning of the
20th century shamanism was banned by the communist regimes of the
Soviet Union and China. Shamans were arrested, costumes and attributes
destroyed. During that period several valuable costumes were given
away or sold by shamans to explorers, such as H.
Haslund Kristensen, to save them from destruction. The same happened
in communist China. In the early 20th century shamanism was considered
to be completely abolished. After
the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 a revival of shamanism began
in several East Siberian states. These new shamans, and the shamans
that had survived the ban, needed, and need, the traditional paraphernalia.
Most of these must be produced again, including the tiger bells. These
new bells have variations in design but are clearly based on the tiger's
head motif. In China shamanism is still strongly discouraged and considered
to be dead, although re-enactments of séances are presented
for tourists in regional museums in the North.
In Europe, tiger bells were found in Turkey,
Malta, Russia and
Great Britain:(in Wales and in a
mausoleum in Mortlake (Greater London.
in Turkey could possibly be related to the shamanic past of Turkish
ethnic groups but that is not yet ascertained.
in Malta is almost certainly a result of trade activities combined
with a passion for horses during the period when Malta was part
of the British Empire, together with a.o. Hong Kong.
bell found in Wales, Great Britain is too worn to be sure it really
is a classic tiger bell. Except for the eyes, the remains of the
design on its surface seem to be a combination of more or less parallel
vertical and horizontal lines. Also the age is difficult to estimate.
For now I presume that the bell's presence is a coincidence and
has no links with shamanism or migration movements.
The tiger bells
in the mausoleum of Sir Richard Francis Burton were most likely
collected in England by his wife after his death, and were used
to decorate his tomb. The origin is not known.
The bells from
Tver, found by Dmitri Timoshenko in a potato field, are very old.
He suggests that the bells were brought there during Mongol invasions
in the 13th century. Because of the combination of age and location,
both Dutch anthropologist Hendrik Wittenberg and I decided to go deeper
into this suggestion, with results, given below.
Mongol invasions, the Hazara and the Turkish armies
found in Wikipedia, shows a remarkable similarity between
the span of the Mongol Empire and the distribution area
of the tiger bells. The religion of the Mongols was a mixture
of Buddhist and shamanic elements. The Mongols influenced,
and were influenced by, shamanism of the Tungus (Ewenk).
Given the time in which these invasions took place (two
centuries after the emergence of Siberian shamanism) it
is likely that the Mongol invasions played a major role
in the spread of elements of Siberian shamanism, and with
that the tiger bells, over the Asian continent.
my opinion the Mongols were the most important
actors in the spread of the tiger bell which they
had given an iconic meaning. Many rulers of the
Khan family positioned themselves as shamans.
And how far did they get! There even were raids
to Indonesia and fights against Javanese royals...
is most likely that the presence of the tiger
bell bell in Kazakhstan
is also related to the movements of the Mongol
in Afghanistan and Pakistan
In a paper titled Malang, Sufis,
and Mystics, dr. Muhammad Humayun Sidky describes
the arrival of shamanism from North Asia into Afghanistan and Pakistan
before Islam became the dominant religion.
In Central Asia,
shamanism was once prevalent among the Turkic peoples, originally
occupying the area of the Altai mountains. By the sixth century
the Turks had invaded the Central Asian steppes, bringing with
them their shamanistic beliefs along with cults of ancestors,
stones, mountains, and the earth goddess Otukan...
Despite the Muslim
hegemony which was established over a large section of Central
Asia after the seventh century, many shamanic practices survived.
13th to the 15th century the Mongols invaded many parts of Asia. Just
as the Mongols, the inhabitants of Central and Northern Asia were
animists and shamanists, among them the Hazara and Turkic people.
They joined the Mongol armies. When the Mongols invaded Afghanistan
and Pakistan, they met the descendants of earlier Turkic invaders
(who were also shamanists and animists) from the 6th century. These
descendants were Islamized but still practiced many shamanic rituals.
The tiger bells, brought there by Mongol shamanism, were easily adopted.
The Hazara stayed, some of the Turkic people traveled on. When Islam
became more and more strict the tiger bells degraded from shaman attributes
to dance bells, amulets and animal bells. Nowadays forms of shamanism
are still practiced in Afghanistan.
From North America there is one report of
a basket full of newly made tiger bells (similar to the Qing
bell, a bell from Burma
and a bell from Korea) in a Chinese shop in
New York. Because of the large number of bells they were probably
for local use, e.g. as an amulet (as in Singapore).
The same happened in the Netherlands
(Amsterdam). Since the year 2000 a new factory in East
China mass produces various tiger bells. These bells are mostly
sold via Internet. In
Japan one tiger bell is a modern copy, said
to be made locally after a Chinese original.
did the tiger bell come to cover such a wide area and is it a 'tracer'?
(distinguishable from other jingle bells by the design: a tiger's
face) are an important object in Siberian shamanism. They also occur
as amulets and dance attributes in several parts of the entire Asian
continent, in SE Asia and insular SE Asia (ISEA).
Since the beginning
of Siberian shamanism in the 11th century tiger bells, together
with other metal and bronze objects such as mirrors, were an indispensable
part of the shaman's costume, particularly among the Neo-Siberians,
mainly Ewenk and subgroups. Siberian shamanism was and is concentrated
in the area East Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, SE Siberia and N. E.
likely, the majority of the classic type A tiger bells, many thousands,
were produced in NE China, from the 11th century or earlier, until
the 12th or 13th century.
showing the main movements of type A tiger bells over the Eurasian
(compare this map with the map of the
many of these bells remained within the area, large numbers were
obtained by other ethnic groups by trade and barter. They too practiced
shamanic rituals. In the course of time these groups migrated over
the continent to other locations for various reasons. This process
took place during three movements of groups of people. One movement
took the tiger bells from Northern China's mainland to Taiwan (Ami,
Puyuma). A second movement crossed China's mainland via Yunnan,
Thailand, Laos, Vietnam to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Southern
Philippines (e.g. Hmong (or Miao), Iban, Bagobo, etc.). The two
movements to the south and southeast must have taken place between
the emergence of shamanism in NE Asia in the 11th century and the
end of the Mongol invasions, from the 13th to 15th century. The
expansion of the Mongol empire was one of the causes for these movements
and thus for the distribution of the tiger bells to the south and
The third movement,
responsible for the spread of the tiger bells to the west and southwest,
was directly caused by the Mongol invasions. The Mongol armies were
accompanied by shamans, and by soldiers of Turkic and Mongolian
descent. They arrived in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. Ethnic groups
in that area were already islamized but had a shamanic past and
still practiced pre-Islamic shamanic rituals. The Mongol soldiers
were assimilated by these groups. The mixed group became known as
the Hazara. The Mongolian shamans brought the tiger bells into the
Afghan-Pakistan area and further into the Middle east. Some Turkic
people stayed, others went on further to the west, taking the tiger
bells with them, into Eastern Europe.
three movements can be traced by the presence of tiger bells in
those areas. After the initial introduction by the shamans, tradesmen
could have taken care of further supplies of tiger bells, produced
in Northern China, using the intricate network of the Silk Route
and its branches.
the beginning of the 20th century shamanism was banned by the communist
regimes in the Sovjet Union and the Peoples Republic of China and
was considered to be dead. However, after the decline of the communist
system in the Soviet Union, shamanism revived in some East Asian countries
such as Tuva, Mongolia and Siberia. Costumes and attributes were and
are made again and so are the tiger bells. Since 2000 AD tiger bells
are produced in large numbers and several variations in at least one
large scale factory in East China. These new bells are sold all over
the world, in local shops and through the Internet. Most of these
new tiger bells are easily distinguished from the tiger bells from
before the 20th century.
Concluding: the three main movements of people mentioned
above brought the tiger bells to where they are found until
today. The movements were indirectly ánd directly caused
by the Mongol expansion and invasions. The presence of tiger
bells indicates how far the influence of the Mongols had reached.
For these three movements the tiger bells can be seen as a tracer.
Of course there were other factors as well that decided where
the tiger bells would find a place. Trade is one such factor,
gifts and barter are other factors. However the overall pattern
was almost certainly decided by the influence of the shamans
of the Mongolians.
The very first
idea, a common origin for all ethnic groups that had or still
have tiger bells, had to be abandoned in an early stage. The
origin of the classic type A tiger bells is in the Central China
area where they were produced during the Tang dynasty (600 -
900 AC). The tiger bells were not popular among the Buddhist
Han Chinese and demand and use concentrated in the shamanic
rituals of ethnic groups in East Mongolia, SE Siberia and NE
China. The distribution over the continent started from there
in the 11th century and went on until roughly the end of the
Mongol invasions. By that time the distribution of tiger bells
over the continent was more or less established.
Possibly in the periods
after the Tang dynasty, when large scale production had stopped,
small production units were started in various place over the
continent to producce copies of tiger bells for local demand,
as in Taiwan. Little is known about the locations of these units.
Quality and design of these later tiger bells vary strongly. In
recent times (20th and 21th century) large scale production factories
have started to produce tiger bells by the many thousands. These
bells are sold now mainly through internet, often presented as
old and antique.
Go back, to the top
of the page or to the Table of
or continue to the next page
All text and photographs are copyrighted,
for information please contact F.
contain no advertisements. If you see any, either as pop-ups or as links,
your computer is infected with either ad-ware or a virus.