bells in South East Asia
Most bells are of the
A type, in sizes varying from about
2,5 to 5 cm., the largest bells occurring with the Iban. In a bundle
of 95 bells all bells are alternatives.
'Life in a longhouse' and other publications by photographer
Hedda Morrison, tiger bells appear in many photographs
such as in this (detail of a) picture of a girl in ceremonial
dress. She wears a collar made of beads, with six tiger bells.
courtesy: Hedda Morrison, 'Life in the longhouse', 1988,
published Summer Times Publishing, Singapore
Iban ceremonial sword belt with a hornbill beak, beadwork and
one tiger bell.
courtesy: Gilles Peret; in 'Hornbill and Dragon',
Bernard Sellato, published by Elf Aquitaine Indonésie,
man holding a small tiger bell in his hand, Longhouse Rumah Jamping
Many reports from tiger
bells on necklaces, skirts, religious objects, etc. In the longhouses
up river tiger bells can still be seen in actual use. One antique
dealer in Kuching explained that the bells originally come from
China and are often worn by small children (see also: Kalimantan).
String with tiger bell,
tied to carrier, Iban, Longhouse Rumah Jamping
Iban necklace with old beads and tiger bells, author's collection,
bought in 1989, in Kapit, Sarawak
trapezium shape of the hoops and compare this with the hoops of the
tiger bells of the Bahau Dayak
and the Toraja bell reported by
Tiger bell, Iban.
3,9 cm. wide,
3,1 cm height.
3,2 cm. side,
by Irene Lim-Reid,
Bareo Gallery, Singapore in 1989
Large tiger bell,
Iban, dimensions: wide 4,5 cm, high 4,2 cm., side 3,8 cm. hoop 1,2
cm. Compare this bell with another tigerbell
from the Iban that is even larger.
Tiger bell with long hoop,
Iban, dimensions: 4,1 cm., high 3,8 cm.,
side 3,6 cm. hoop 1,4 cm
bell with cowry shells, group: possibly Iban, dimensions: wide 3,5
high 3,2 cm., side 2,8 cm., hoop 0,8 cm.
bells were collected in Kuching and Kapit, Sarawak 1989.
of the Iban of Sarawak
According to Iban history the Iban arrived in Borneo
in around 1675. They came from Sumatra, Indonesia (Iban migration
into Sarawak, J. J. Guang). Recent DNA research has shown
that before the Iban arrived in Sumatra they, or their ancestors,
lived on the SE Asian mainland, 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).
explaining the map concludes:
most common non-recombining Y (NRY) and mitochondrial (mt) DNA
haplogroups present in the Iban are associated with populations
of Southeast Asia. We conclude that migrations from Southeast
Asia made a large contribution to Iban ancestry...
is interesting to see the traces of Thai Yuan (nr. 42)
in Central Sumatra. Possibly the Iban's ancestors came from the
SE Asian mainland, first to their location on Sumatra, then to
Borneo. The growing influence of Islam in Sumatra could have forced
the Iban's ancestors to leave the island.
Necklace with one tiger
bell, several small bells, animal teeth, and beads.
Author's collection, bought in Kuching, 1989;
Dimensions: wide 4 cm., high 3,6 cm. side 3,5 cm. hoop 0,9 cm.
tiger bells, mainly on necklaces together with beads, animal claws
and sometimes cowry shells. Tiger bells are still in use in the longhouses,
including those near Kuching.
Several necklaces in a longhouse near Kuching. All bells are tiger bells.
Photographed in 1989.
tiger bells found in one ethnic curio shop in Kuching. Bells are mainly
from Bidayu amulets and necklaces, some from Iban (1989).
bells, amulets; Bidayu Dayak. I bought the bell on the left in the
souvenir shop at the airport. Immediately after my bell was put
in the bag, another bell was put on display. When I bought that
bell too, again another bell was put on the display counter. My
impression was that there was an almost unlimited supply of these
of the bells:
Larger bell: wide 2,9 cm. high 2,6 cm. side 2,2 cm. hoop 0,7 cm. trapezium
Smaller bell: wide 2,6 cm., high 2,1 cm., side 1,2 cm., hoop 0,6 cm.
Two tiger bells, bought
in Kuching, Sarawak by Annemarieke Koch.
- the left bell with
the tiger bell from Toraja and
the Bahau Dayak (Ind.)
- the right bell with the tiger bell from Timor
of the bells:
Larger bell: wide 3,2 cm. high 2,7 cm. side 2,5 cm. hoop 1,2 cm. trapezium
Smaller bell: wide 2 cm., high 1,7 cm., side 1,5 cm., hoop 0,5 cm.
unknown, possibly newly made, possibly for commercial purposes.
For sale on Borneo
Artifacts' website: a bundle of alternative bells; description:
bells. Win these bells for Christmas!! They are made of brass
material, will never rust, there are total of 95 bells suitable
for Christmas tree display or simply a musical gift from Borneo
and they make quite a noise. All bells are attached only by string,
ready holes for all 95 bells are easily separated for easy decoration.
Measurement: each bell 3 cm / 1,2 inch across. Item net weight
is 2,3 kilograms / 5,1 lb.
Compare these alternative
bells with Marco Hadjidakis' bell and the other
bells from the 3Worlds site on the
tiger bell as pendant, bell from Sarawak. The design is reduced
to several crisscrossed lines with only the eyes recognizable.
In 2010, in
the National Museum in Kuching, the Borneo International
Beads Conference was held. Tiger bells appear on several pictures.
No details are given but it is evident that some of these bells are
The bells second and
fourth from the left are either old bells or new bells based on
the classic type A. The bell third from left has an engraved design
and is similar to alternative bells as seen above
and as shown on the Alternatives
Bliek from Ojén, urb. La Mairena, Spain, reports
one unusual tiger bell type A.
tiger bell is remarkable because of its size: the width is
4,702 cm. This makes it the largest tiger bell I have seen
(compare this bell with the bell earlier
on this page). Only the bell reported by Mr John
Cornelius is larger. Mr Biek's bell is bought in Sarawak
in the '80-s of the last century.
by Wilmar Bliek in September 2015.
Mr Bliek also reported a
tiger bell from Vietnam.
A letter from Ms.
Inger Wulff, Danish National Museum, Copenhagen in 1976:
have tried to find such bells in our collection other than those
on the Mongolian shaman costume,
but only discovered one, which was attached to the wrist of
a shadow puppet from Kelantan, Malaysia.
is one of the states of Malaysia where Islam is the main religion.
Its immediate neighbor to the north is (the Muslim part of)
Thailand. The Wayang kulit shadow puppet show is well
known in Islamic Indonesia (mainly Java and Sumatra) and in
Kelantan. It also occurs in the southern, Islamic part of Thailand
where it is called Nang Thalung. In Thailand
many tiger bells of different types are still in use so it is
possible that this tiger bell arrived in Kelantan from Thailand.
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