bells in Central Asia
Formerly: Outer Mongolia
Page from 'Grove's dictionary of music' with various bells
type A tiger bell, used as an amulet. Illustration in the Grove's
Dictionary of Music, an article on various types of bells by the
late Mr. Percival Price.
Group: unknown, probably
One large type B tiger bell. No further details available but probably
from a horse belt (similar to those from Tibet).
shaman costume from Darchad, in the National Museum of Mongolian
History. On the headdress two large tiger bells, type A, are
attached (diameter appr. 5 to 6 cm.). One smaller tiger bell
on the side of the costume. The costume was exhibited during
the exposition Dancing demons of Mongolia, Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam,
Courtesy: Organisatie De Nieuwe
Kerk; Publishers: V+K Publishing / Inmerc
In March 2009 Marco
addition to several single tiger bells I have a Mongolian shaman's
mirror, tied to a small table or stool with silk khadaques (tufts
of silk). Also twelve small tiger bells are attached to the table.
Two of the tiger bells. The bronze mirror, toli, is on top
of the object.
Photograph courtesy: Marco Hadjidakis who also contributed
pictures of bells from China
bells are of the A-type. The average diameter is appr. 3,5 cm. Note
the large rectangular hoop and compare this to one of the tiger bells
I had the chance to see
the object myself and Marco Hadjidakis allowed me to make several
photographs. Instead of twelve there are thirteen tiger bells. They
are tied to what seems to be a cube-shaped miniature table of wood
with sides of about 12,5 cm. The 'legs' are appr. 4 cm. square.
The cube is covered with such a large number of silk threads, tufts
and ribbons that it is difficult to see the cube itself. The tiger
bells are also hidden in the tangle of silk. The longest of the
ribbons are more than 50 cm. long. Mr. Hadjidakis thinks the toli
(bronze mirror), the silk ribbons and the bells were once part of
a shaman's dress. They were tied to the cube-shaped mini-table,
that thus became an altar piece or an oracle-mirror. My impression
however is that it is a head decoration. The ribbons were supposed
to hang over the head and shoulders of the shaman in order to cover
his face. The toli, on top of the head of the shaman, reflected
the sun. The object is clearly part of a shaman's costume in the
tradition of the Ewenk, and was
used by an Ewenk shaman or a shaman of a subgroup such as the Solon
The object is placed on a stool to show the length of the
silk ribbons and tufts.
The object is so intriguing
that I have added a special page with more views in a larger size.
Click here to go to that page.
screen shot taken from a documentary on Christian missionary
work in Mongolia wherein a missionary meets a shaman in Ulan
Bataar. The screen shot was taken by Henk Orsel (Eindhoven,
the Neth.) who also reported the tiger bells from Istanbul
(Turkey). The picture shows two tiger bells between other
shaman's attributes. No more details are known.
Boeddhistische Omroep, no
details are known
The two bells
are of the A type; however the design seems to be engraved in the
surface of the bell (and not in relief on the surface). This could
indicate that these are newly made bells.
in October 2012
Mongol invasions, the Hazara and the Turkish armies
Inspired by Mr.
Timoshenko's find of the two old tiger
bells in November 2011, I searched for information on
the Mongol invasions. In the WikiPedia I found this
map. The map shows the Mongol empire under Djengis Khan:
area is indeed almost similar to the distribution
area of the the classic tiger bell. The map shows the
Mongol empire in the 14th - 15th century. The Mongols had
a strong shamanic tradition which was closely related to
the shamanist complex of the Ewenk (or: Tungus) and their
subgroups, as well as the Manchu's. The Mongol leaders were
shamans. Shamans accompanied the armies during their invasions
over the Asian continent.
Hendrik Wittenberg reacted too on the report of
Mr. Timoshenlo's find. He too remarks that there is a
striking similarity between the distribution area of the
type A tiger bells and the Mongol empire at the height
of its power in the 13th to the 15th century. Mr.
Wittenberg writes the following:
my opinion the Mongols were the most important actors
in the spread of the tiger bell (type A) which they had
given an iconic meaning. Many rulers of the Khan family
positioned themselves as shamans. And how far did they
get! There even were raids to Indonesia and fights against
presence of tiger bells in Afghanistan
and Pakistan, and possibly also
in Turkey, could therefore very
well be a direct result of immigrations of Hazara and Turkic
people, who arrived in the area with the Mongolian armies.
presence and use of tiger bells in Mongolia cannot be seen separately
from the presence of tiger bells in Inner
Mongolia and SE Siberia.
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