bells in Southeast Asia
There are numerous reports
of tiger bells in Indonesia, the majority from East Kalimantan (Kalimantan
is the Indonesian part of Borneo), but also in other parts of the
country. Almost all tiger bells are of the A
type, in sizes varying from about 2 to 4 cm. There is one B-bell,
together with an A type bell, in the private collection of the Mangkunegara
kraton in Solo, Java.
various Dayak groups
the Leyden Ethnological Museum (Leyden, Neth.): several baby carriers
from East and Central Kalimantan, one of them with 12 tiger bells,
another with 5 tiger bells, together with ordinary pellet bells.
carrier with twelve tiger bells
up of one of the bells
carrier, Kayan Dayak, Upper Mahakam river. Collected by A.W.
Nieuwenhuis and donated to the museum in 1901. The Chinese characters
are explained on the Various types
carrier with five tiger bells
five tiger bells in close up
carrier, group unknown, Kutei region. Collected by S.W.
Tromp, donated to the museum in 1883. The Chinese characters
on the bells (not well visible) are translated by Prof.
de Groot as 'happiness together'.
the Tropen museum (Amsterdam, Neth.): A baby carrier with three
tiger bells (originally there were seven to eight bells).
the Nijmegen University museum (Nijmegen, Neth.): several
bells on various objects such as a walking stick, a cloth
covered with bead work and several bells in bundles combined
with four to six ordinary bells.
and right: walking stick with one tiger bell
through Borneo' (1935) an drawing with the caption 'Hawk's
bell on Kayan necklace (Peek Coll.)'
as an amulet together with several old beads and three ordinary
bells. This tiger
bell is roughly made and similar to tiger bells from Afghanistan
wide 3,4 cm. high 3,1 cm. side 2,6 cm. hoop 0,7 cm.
bell as an amulet and an ordinary bell, tied to package with magic
wide 2,6 cm. high 2,2 cm. side 1,5 cm. hoop 0,6 cm. (trapezium shaped).
bells of varying size, with round hoops; on a belt worn by a shaman
Photographed in 1985.
tiger bells in various sizes, tied to children's ankles as an amulet.
Seen in one village (Long Bagun Ilir, Mahakam river). When asked about
the age of the bells, the answer was that they were already in the
possession of the orang keturunan ('the people that came down'):
the ancestors who lived in the forests. A date or time could not be
Reported and photographed in 1985.
bells in a bundle of ordinary bells. One (in front) is similar to
a tiger bell from Sulawesi reported by Kaudern.
Photographed and collected in 1985 (bell in front).
illustrations with tiger bells in 'Hornbill and Dragon' by Bernardo
Sellato (Elf Aquitaine Indonesia, 1989). Some examples:
carrier, Upper Mahakam, decorated with shells, beads, panther fangs
and several tiger bells.
Photograph: Pierre Ivanoff, courtesy Elf Aquitaine Indonesia
carrier, Upper Mahakam, with 16 tiger bells.
Photograph: Bernard Sellato, courtesy Elf Aquitaine Indonesia
carrier, Upper Mahakam, with beadwork, shells and tiger bells
Photograph: Dicky Wp, courtesy Elf Aquitaine Indonesia
On the website
antik.dayak.blogspot.de a short summary of this search is given
in Bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language). The summary
is illustrated with several pictures. The first is taken from our
website (the picture above); the second is an unknown object, possibly
two, with four balls(?) wrapped and decorated with beadwork. Attached
are two tiger bells type A..
object with two A type tiger bells
The page ends
with two pictures of a classic type A tiger bell that is probably
for sale through the site.
in June 2014, by Harald Lux, Germany
Courtesy: Tropen Museum, Amsterdam
seven tiger bells, in the Tropen museum, Amsterdam; exhibited during
the exposition 'From shaman to cyber space', 1998
tiger bell, described in Art in Celebes by Walter Kaudern
bells are laterally flattened with a square hoop, perforated for
a suspending string. Below there is a rather broad slot, possibly
meant to represent the mouth of an animal, two knobs on either
side, surrounded by rings looking like two eyes. (Volume III,
page 78, picture 77)
actual bell is in the Leyden Museum (left below):
Compare the Kaudern
bell with the bell from the Bahau Dayak (right below and above).
actual bell, collected by W. Kaudern
The bell was donated to the Leyden Ethnological Museum in 1927. The
bell comes from Koelawi Lemo, Central Sulawesi. This type of bell
was worn by women during festivals. The diameter is 3,2 cm. The hoop
is trapezium shaped.
collection, collected in 1989
wide 3,4 cm.
high 3 cm.
side 2,5 cm.
hoop 0,8 cm. (trapezium shaped)
illustration in 'Art in Celebes' by Walter Kaudern of a collar
of bead work and coins and bells.
bells and globular bells which the North Toraja use for ornamental
purposes have more or less a religious meaning with them.(....)
Certain globular bells are covered with ornaments, such as the
one seen in fig. 222E and E1 but these are of Chinese import.'
NB: The case of the
sword with three tiger bells given in Schwerter von Celebes
is moved to The Philippines. The
Lanun do not live in Sulawesi (formerly called Celebes)
but in Mindanao, the Philippines.
the National Museum in Jakarta: one smaller tiger bell, tied
to a dance stick (roé-roé). Collected in 1938, on display
in 1983, later removed from the exhibition.
Music in Flores by Jaap Kunst (1942, Brill Archives):
- BELLS (uwé
or what the French call grelots,
are used in Flores for the accompaniment of the dance, (as
is also common in Central Celebes)
both in the extreme east of the island; in the mid-eastern
or when used by the main
They are of
Chinese origin, and are bought by the people from the inland
districts in the Chinese toko;' in the capital. They are worn
either tied round the ankles or calves or dangling somewhere
behind or from the crutch.
Bundles of tiger
bells, tied to the ankles of male dancers performing a line
dance. Shown in an episode of the anthropological tv series
Man on the rim.
One small tiger
bell (width: appr. 2 cm.), originally tied to a stick, used
by tribal elders for ceremonial purposes and dancing. The
age of the bell was estimated by shop owner Eddy Lauren (Kuta,
Bali) as 'older than Majapahit' (AD 1300).
wide 2,1 cm. high 2 cm. side 1,2 cm. hoop 0,4 cm.
the Municipal museum of Figueira da Foz (Portugal): a horse
belt with four tiger bells (nr. N7122, collected in or before
One tiger bell, said to be used for horses.
3,6 cm. high 3,2 cm. side 2,7 cm. hoop 1 cm.
collection, bought in 1985
Group: unknown, but probably used in Bali. One
tiger bell, said to have been used for horses.
4 cm. high 3,5 cm. side 3,2 cm. hoop 1 cm.
collection, bought in 1983.
small tiger bell, in an antique shop in Klaten. The owner,
Om Bram, said that the bell was Chinese and dated from
the T'ang dynasty, appr. 500 AD. Reported in 1981.
tiger bells, one type B and one type A bell, in the
private collection of the Mankunegara Kraton
in Solo, together with several ordinary bells.
the Leyden Ethnological Museum: two bells (giring-giring)
tied together, collected in Sungai Puar (no year given).The
bells were used for cats. Dimensions: 3 x 3 x 2 cm. No
collection or donation date given.
A Minangkabau blacksmith told me that tiger bells could
probably still be found with the 'people from Sijunjung
and those living on the slopes of the Merapi (on Sumatra,
the Medan Regional Museum:
one smaller tiger bell, tied
to a ceremonial collar/necklace
('semara'), used in
ritual dances by religious
leaders. In the museum catalogue
the semara has item
number 151. The tiger bell
is described as follows:
At the top(...) a bronze bell
with a human face (makara)
Batak, possibly Toba
One tiger bell, roughly made.
wide 3,6 cm. high 3,2 cm. side 2,6 cm. hoop 0,8 cm.
collection; bought in an antique shop in Prapat in 1986
tiger bells, found in the river
Musi, purchased by mr.Thomas
Roszel who lives in Jakarta
(Indonesia) and visits Palembang
regularly. He mailed the following:
have purchased the tiger bells in Palembang (Sumatra) where
traditional divers found them in the deep of the Musi river.
They were scattered over the bottom of the river. No other
objects such as ceramics were near...
tiger bells; the key rings were added by Mr. Roszel.
The coin is a 200 rupiah coin.
Right: The largest
bell of the three (centre).
in February 2013. After the initial exchange of mails, contact
with Mr. Roszel was lost.
months later Mr. Harald Lux reported that he had bought through
E-bay one tiger bell that was found in the Musi-river in Sumatra.
It was one of the tiger bells reported by Mr. Roszel. Mr.
Lux made several photographs of the bell:
sides of the bell, the widest diameter is appr. 3 cm.
Other views are from the same bell
courtesy Mr. Harald Lux,Germany
NB: This is one of six reports of an archeological find of the
tiger bells. The other reports are a second report
from Indonesia, Tver (Russia) where two
tiger bells were found in a potato field, Vietnam,
where a mixed type of tiger bell was found, and Wales
(Great Britain) where one heavily worn tiger bell was found.
Six tiger bells, from a ship wreck in the Batang Hari river,
near Jambi. I bought the bells from antique dealer Ms. Annisia
Khoiriya, in Jambi. Our first contact was in August 2017. She
reported that she had eight tiger bells which were salvaged
from a ship wreck by local divers. A picture of the bells was
included in the mail.
Ms. Khoiriya if she knew anything about the history of the bells
and told her that I would like to buy some of the bells. She
told me that these bells were already sold to a party in Thailand.
She sad she still had two other tiger bells left, but the divers
had plans to make another dive soon. If any interesting objects
would submerge Ms. Khoriyah would inform me. I decided to wait
until the next dive. On the included photo three tiger bells
tiger bells together with several other objects salvaged during
weeks later the dive was done. The water in the river was merky.
The divers had to work by feel but in the end six tiger bells
together with several bronze coins dating back to the era of
the Banten Sultanate were submerged. The Sultanate ruled from
the city of Banten in West Java over West Java and South Sumatra
and was at the height of its power in the 16th and 17th century
of the coins that were found near the tiger bells.
fact that the coins and the bells were found not far from each
other in the same wreck is a strong indication that both were
on the ship at the time of the accident. This implies that the
coins and the bells are appr. 300 to 400 years old; the bells
possibly older. I decided to buy all six.
six tiger bells salvaged during the second dive. The bell on
the lower left seems to be the same bell in the picture of the
three bells, on the upper left .
Very likely the
tiger bells were brought there as merchandise, to be traded
with the local population. Who were the people living between
the Musi river and the Batang Hari river, during the 16th-17th
century who were so interested in these tiger bells? Nowadays
tiger bells are neither used nor known by any of the ethnic
groups in South Sumatra. It seems that the group of people
who were interested in tiger bells are not there anymore.
Who were they? Possibly, the answer can be found on the island
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