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Tiger bells in East Asia


Group: Ami

Two dance costumes. One tiger bell type A, together with six ordinary bells on one costume; on the other costume: nine tiger bells type A (see illustration). The bells are more or less similar to the bells from Kalimantan, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Photograph by Elisabeth den Otter, during a performance in the Tropen Museum, Amsterdam (1988).

Southeast coast
Group: Puyuma

In a paper titled Puyuma Bells: The Markers of Honour, Passage, and Social Status by Lancini Jen-Hao Cheng (2010) there is an interesting description of a kamelin, a set of seven to nine tiger bells:

...The kamelin consists of 7 to 9 pellet bells attached to a cloth waist belt; although in Taiwan regarded as a set of bells, within the Hornbostel and Sachs system, this would be classified as a set of ‘vessel rattles’ (111.13). The bells/vessels are suspended from their apex, a metal pellet inside striking the walls of the bell/vessel, and a slit of 3 cm by 0.4 cm in each bell/vessel amplifying the sound. Each is inscribed with the face of a tiger and Chinese characters for ‘great’ and ‘king’ (bold by ed.) that are meant to keep evil away. The diameter of each bell/vessel is about 2.8 cm, and each pellet is about 0.6 cm in diameter. In the past, the kamelin were made of bronze, but nowadays the majority are brass, a metal considered to produce a nicer and brighter sound. The belt is about 15 cm wide, and the instrument sounds as the player moves. The Puyuma youth, vangesaran, use the kamelin to create a boisterous atmosphere in ceremonies.

Puyuma youth with kamelins around the waist
Photograph: courtesy Lancini Jen-Hao Cheng

In this paragraph the author states that in the past the bells were made of bronze but nowadays are made of brass because the sound is better. This suggests that the bells are made locally. This would be the second indication (January 2011) of production of these bells outside the China-Manchuria region. The first indication (December 2010) came from Ilchi, leader of the Mongolian/Chinese popgroup Hanggai who bought his bundles of tiger bells in South Mongolia where they were locally made.

The complete article can be found at:

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