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Tiger bells in East Asia

South Korea
Tiger bells are of the A type and alternatives

In February 2011, a member of the China History Forum, named SNK_1408, sent photographs of several types of tiger bells occurring in South Korea. He writes:

...I don't have much information on this bell but in Korea it's called , meaning 'tiger bell'. I have seen these bells in a Korean traditional market that sells antiques and cultural items.

I was told the bells with the eyes are tiger bells. In Korea tiger bells are mostly used to drive away bad karma or spirits. In old times, Korean parents usually tied the smaller tiger bells on their baby's ankle. Also the bells were given to small children as a gift and they were worn by children as an ornament. This tradition is however no longer seen in Korea; you hardly see these bells anymore. Now they are made just for decoration. They are for sale on local curio and antique markets.

It appears that most variations of type A tiger bells that we see in other countries and regions, including several alternatives, also occur in Korea.

This is a classic type A tiger bell, except for the fact that it is very large (in relation to the hand the diameter is appr. 10 cm.). Compare this bell with the John Cornelius' bell (particularly the motifs in the nose).
Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

A tiger bell, roughly made, new
Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

Three small tiger bells, new.
Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

The design of this alternative bell is also used on a bell said to date from the Qing dynasty. An identical bell is also reported in Burma and a newly made, identical bell was bought in New York.
Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

This alternative bell is similar to a bell reported in Syria.
Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

Korea has a firmly established, living tradition of shamanism. A mudang (the Korean shaman) uses jingle bells but until now I had not seen tiger bells as mudang bells. The common type is a plain bell, a number of them attached to a metal handle thus forming a ritual rattle of bells.

Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

However according to SNK_1408 mudangs do use plain bells ànd tiger bells:

The small mudang bells (as in the picture above, ed.) are a simplified version, without the eyes and characters. Large mudang bells do have eyes and characters on it (the characteristics of tiger bells; author). Apart from the 'Wang' character, the character 'bok' (meaning 'luck') also occurs.

On E-bay a bundle of mudang bells is offered. The object is newly made and confirms the statement by contributor SNK_1408 (stated above). These bells do have the tiger face, which is engraved in the surface.

Reported in April 2014.

Region: Northwest Hwanghae

July 2013. In the Ethnological Museum in Vienna a bundle of 99 brass bells is on display. The bells are tied to piece of multicolored cotton wrapped like a sleeve, with a rim of synthetic leather. One of the bells is a tiger bell. On the picture the bell is not very well visible but it seems to be a rough version of the type A mixed with type B like elements such as the egg-shape. All bells are new. The object is a recent acquisition (loan; the description says 21st century). The object seems to be a variation of the bundle of mudang bells as described above.

As Korean contributor SNK_1408 pointed out: with mudang bells the larger bells have eyes and characters on the surface. In this example that is clearly the case.

View 1

View 2

The description

Reported in July 2013 by Harald Lux, Germany who also made the photographs. Earlier Mr Lux contributed cases in September 2011 and December 2011.

In April 2014, on E-bay a similar object as above is offered.

Of the many bells on the object two bells are clearly tiger bells. These bells are newly made but shape and design are based on the classic tiger bell, type A.

Photograph: courtesy SNK_1408 (from a Korean Internet site)

These bells date from the 2 - 3rd century. The face is very rudimentary present, mainly indicated by the eyes. The type could be a predecessor of the classical type A tiger bell. (See also the Liao bells from China).

Of none of the tiger bells on this page details on age, use and place or region of origin could be given. Most likely all these bells, except the two ancient bells above, are newly made.

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