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Tiger bells in South East Asia


Tiger bells in Laos are of the type B. Two alternative bells (alt. A and alt. B) are reported and one tiger bell type C . The group of small bells in Mr. Fritch's report is possibly of the type D.

A report from K. Fritch (January '96):

The bells I have were acquired in Ban Houei Sai, a small Lao river town up near the "Golden Triangle". They were described as having been used as horse bells by Chinese Haw traders. There were bells of two types. One type was round and and seems to fit type B. The other does not seem to fit a described type. They were small and oblong, made of bronze, no character, but the opening in the bell was obviously a mouth and eyes appear on the bell. The string of bells I acquired was made up of both these types, but the strap to which they were attached was obviously of much more recent manufacture. The small bells appeared much more worn and considerably older than the type B.

Haw traders are a Chinese ethnic group [from Yunnan] who traded extensively throughout northern Southeast Asia. They used pack animals.

Note: The second type could be type D.

In September 2011 Harald Lux from Germany mailed:

I bought six tiger bells on the night market in Luang Prabang and two in Luang Namtha, Laos. If you gave me your email address I would take pictures and send them...

Mr. Lux sent pictures of nine tiger bells. Six bells are of the B type; one is an alternative type A bell and one bell is of the B type but the design is very different from other B bells. This make this bell an alternative type B bell. Finally one bell is of the C type. Five of the B bells were bought from a Hmong woman; the others were bought in local curio shops.

In 2009, Mr. Lux bought this group of five bells type B at the night market in Luang Prabang:

A woman had a small plastic bag with the bells between her handicraft products. She was from the Hmong ethnic group and people from her village had asked her to sell them...

Tiger bell type B, the first of a group of five
height with hoop: 6,2 cm (without hoop: 4,6 cm)
diameter topview: 4,7 cm
diameter sideview: 5,1 cm

Tiger bell type B, the second of a group of five
height with hoop: 6,1 cm (without hoop: 4,4 cm)
diameter topview: 4 7 cm
diameter sideview: 4,9 cm

Tiger bell type B, the third of a group of five
height with hoop: 6,2 cm (without hoop: 4,5 cm)
diameter topview: 4,8 cm
diameter sideview: 5,1 cm

Tiger bell type B, the fourth of a group of five
height with hoop: 6,2 cm (without hoop: 4,5 cm)
diameter sideview 5,1 cm
diameter topview: 4,7 cm

Tiger bell type B, the fifth of a group of five

height with hoop: 6, 2 cm (without hoop: 4, 5 cm)
diameter topviewt: 4,7 cm
diameter side: 5,1 cm (no picture)

On the bells 1 to 5, Mr. Lux adds:

The bells stem from a Hmong village in the surroundings of Luang Prabang. Hmong people traditionally have horses in Laos and I was told by somebody who spent about 10 years in the country that he assumes that Hmong are the only group that keeps them. I saw bells of this size and type in shops in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The bells were attached to a leather collar as you describe on your webpage that could fit the small Hmong horses. When I stepped by the National Library in Vientiane, I was invited to meet the head in his office. He had a library of palm leaf documents from monasteries all over the country. Fortunately, he showed a few examples and the picture I sent (see below) shows information about Buddhist philosophy and practical advice concerning this topic...

I think that the horse wears a collar with tiger bells If you zoom in the picture, you might also see similarities that reminded me of the silhouette of this type of bell...

Bell nr. 6 was bought in Luang Prabang at the night market in 2010. This tiger bell is a type B bell. It is said to be from Laos.

This is the type B bell that is common in northern Thailand, Tibet and Mongolia
height with hoop: 6,0 cm (without hoop: 4,3 cm)
diameter topview: 4,5 cm
diameter sideview: 5 2 cm

Bell nr. 7 comes from the morning market in Luang Namtha, and was bought in 2011.
Tiger bell, alternative type, nr.7; four views
On this bell Mr. Lux reports:
A few vendors sold jewelry and had old stuff on lower boards. The seller assured me that they are from Laos. People brought them to her shop. This bell has no iron ball inside.

On the bluish green patina:

I consider this bell (nr. 7) to be the oldest, because there is the dark turquoise patch of patina, which consists of small crystals that I could see with a microscope. In an antique shop in Luang Prabang, a historian told me about his research on Chinese bronze vessels and that such crystals grow slowly and are a reference to age and originality. He can even differentiate different kinds of minerals on his old pieces... The seller in Luang Namtha placed emphasis on the age of this bell.

The remarks on the patina are interesting, particularly since I found a site on this subject:

Tiger bell nr. 8 is a type B bell. However the design is entirely different from the other type B tiger bells. The Wang character is replaced by a symbol; in the design we see spirals and concentric geometric patterns. These elements make this bell an alternative type B tiger bell. The bell was bought in 2011, at the night market in Luang Prabang and said to be from Laos.
Bell 8 is an alternative type B tiger bell because of the design elements on the surface that are very different from other type B tiger bells
height with hoop: 6,0 cm (without hoop 4,3 cm.)
diameter topview: 4,4 cm.
diameter sideview: 4,9 cm.

Bell nr. 9 was bought in 2011 at the morning market in Luang Namtha, together with bell nr. 7.
Bell 9 is a type C tiger bell that is mostly seen in Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet

On the Luang Prabang handicraft night market, Mr. Lux reports:

Some vendors are specialized in “old” items. Some things look like reproductions, but the tiger bells from bronze seem to be original. It is hard to find a complete bell in a good condition. Many bells have cracks, holes or the iron ball is missing and so on. One vendor had tigerbells made of brass with distinct Chinese characters and no patina this year (2011). They looked like recent products...

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