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.
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.
May 2017; I received an e-mail from Mr. Marius Meulenberg (living
in Lelystad, The Neth.). He reported: 'Yesterday I bought a bronze
'bell' of which I would like to know more.It is a tube-shaped handle
of about 10 cm. ending in a funnel shaped rim, decorated with 18 small
bronze jingle bells. In the centre a larger tiger bell type A is suspended.'
Mr. Meulenberg added this picture:
I had seen an object like this, in 1989 in the National Museum in
Kuching, Sarawak. It was exposed in a large display of various objects
in use by the Bidayu Dayaks, who live near Kuching. No description
or name was given. As reminder I made a small sketch.
object resembles the funnel shaped lower part of a candle holder.
The hoop is soldered to the narrow rim of the open top-end of
the funnel. In the rim of the base holes are bored through which
a copper wire is tied. A number of small bronze bells and one
larger tiger bell are attached to the wire. Seen in the National
Museum of Sarawak in Kuching, in december 1989.
allowed me to buy the object and I could have a closer look at it. The
shape and the positon of the smaller bells are the same, the only difference
is place of the tiger bell which is suspended from the center of the
hoop. The dimensions
length from hoop to rim: appr. 11,5 cm.
witth of tyhe hoop 3,5 cm.
width top of the funnel: 3 cm.
width of the base 8,5 cm.
views on the object I bought from Mr. Meulenberg.
Some time later when
I contacted Marco Hadjidakis,
who reported tiger bells from Mongolia and Burma,
to discuss another subject, he appeared to have two similar objects
in his collection. One was made of bronze and the second made of
wood. Both have the typical funnel shape and a ring of small bronze
bells (on the brass funnel: 35 small bells) attached to the rim
and a larger bell centrally suspend. He gave me the following information:
As far as I know
the object is a shaman's rattle from a Dyak tribe in Borneo although
I do now know which tribe. In both objects the funnel is hollow.
The object is used by the shaman (or belian) of the tribe. During
healing rituals the soul of the ill person could get lost (soul
loss). With the funnel the soul is caught and blown back again
into the body of the deseased.
Mr Hadjidakis' bronze
shaman's funnel; the larger bell is not a tiger bell.
Group: 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.
of the Iban of Sarawak
According to Iban tradition their ancestors migrated
from Sumatra to Western Borneo (now Sarawak). Even a specific
year is given: 1675. From where the Iban's ancestors in
Sumatra descended is explained in the article 'Ancestry
of the Iban' (2011). The article presents the results of
recent DNA research. The authors state that...
from Southeast Asia made a large contribution to the Iban
ancestry although evidence of potential gene flow from Taiwan
is also seen in uniparentally inherited marker data.
A map of SE Asia
shows the location of various ethnic goups according to
their DNA groups (haplogroups). The location of one group,
the Thai Yuan is indicated in South Sumatra (nr. 42 on the
map), between the rivers Musi and Batang Hari, the area
where 3 tiger bells were found in the Musi
river and 16 tiger bells from the 16-17th century were
salvaged from a ship wreck in the Batang
Hari river. The Thai Yuan arrived in Sumatra from the
SE Asian mainland. There the group still exists but is assimilated
in the Lao. In that particular region, between Thailand
and Laos, live several ethnic groups that used tiger bells,
as amulets or ritual objects (a.o. Karen, Meo, Akha)
common non-recombining Y (NRY) and mitochondrial (mt)
DNA haplogroups present in the Iban are associated with
populations of Southeast
the tiger bells found in the Musi and Batang Hari destined
for the Thai Yuan? If so it were the Thai Yuan who left Sumatra
in 1675, possibly because upcoming Islam made their lives
more and more difficult. Once arrived in Borneo they met other
ethnic groups, mainly Dayak. The Kayan Dayak called them 'Hivan'
(wanderers) which was adjusted to 'Iban'.
Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, The Gale Group; www.encyclopedia.com
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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