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Tiger bells in Southeast Asia


The majority of the tiger bells is of the B type, two are of an alternative B type; some tiger bells are of the A type.

Group: unknown

Dimensions: wide 4,9 cm., high 4,7 cm., side 5 cm., hoop 1 cm.

In handicraft-, home industry- and antique shops, very many large type B tiger bells are for sale. In one shop I came across a basket full of these bells that had been painted gold. The shop owners did not know anything about the origin, buying the bells in bulk from traders 'from the north'.

When I asked about their use, shop people pointed at two large bells (diameter about 10 cm.) with tiger heads (but not in the style of the tiger bells), used as door knobs (1985).

Several examples reported and donated by among others Hendrik Wittenberg, Arie Jurling.

Gold painted tiger bell, type B
Dimensions: wide 4,3 cm. high: 4 cm. side 4,3 cm. hoop 1 cm.

Region unknown
Group: unknown
One tiger bell, probably type A , on a photograph (title of the publication unknown) of the facade of a house with four or five large phalluses made of wood, probably during a festival. The phalluses are decorated with garlands of flowers.

On the festival and the wooden phalluses, M. Fisher comments (January '96):
Could these phalluses possibly be from a 'boon bon fei' festival, or a rocket festival? These are held in the beginning of the rainy season, in hopes of ensuring good rains and therefore good rice crops. The festival is mostly an Isan (East Thailand) cultural thing that was carried there from Laos. The particular one I was at occurred about 10-20 miles from Mahasarakham.

Region: Chang Mai
Group: Karen

Left bell: wide 3,7 cm., high 3,2 cm., side 2,8 cm., hoop 0,9 cm.
Right bell: wide: 3,3 cm., high: 3 cm., side: 2,5 cm., hoop: 0,9 cm.

Two tiger bells type A, one roughly made, used as animal bells. The roughly made bell (left) was said to come from Burma (collected in 1986).

Group: Akha

Dimensions: wide 4,1 cm. high 3,9 cm. side 4,3 cm. hoop 1,2 cm.

One small type B tiger bell, tied to a belt, probably used for a dog. The belt was said to come from Burma (collected in 1986).

The Karen and the Akha use both A and B type bells as animal bells. The idea that human beings would wear these bells was, according to the shopkeeper, unthinkable. Small type B bells from the Akha were sold in pairs.

Group: Unknown

Dimensions: wide 4,6 cm., high 4 cm., side 3,7 cm. hoop 1,2 cm.

Tiger bell, size and shape of a B type bell, but the design is different (see: Alternatives). The tiger face is there but the decorations seem to be engraved instead of in high relief. No details were available. Compare this bell with some bells from Nepal on a shaman's chain.

Bought in a ethnic and curio shop in Chang Mai, in 2000.
A quote from 'Peoples of the Golden Triangle' (1984) in the chapter on domestic animals:

'Ponies, especially prized by groups with strong Chinese ties, are very useful for difficult mountain trails. Chinese style bells and harnesses are used...'

From the collection of Prof. Ovidiu Oana: one Alternative, very small tiger bell from Thailand.

Photograph: courtesy Prof. Ovidiu Oana
Name: LiaoDy Charm Pendant "Tiger Caput Small bell"
Bronze tiger bell type A (with Wang symbol)
- Bell Hanger: 0,5 cm; 0,197 inches;
- Ø1: 2,0 cm; 0,787 inches;
- Ø2: 1,5 cm; 0,590 inches;
- Country of origin: Thailand
Acquired: Acquisition as antique from Romania.

The name of the bell is intriguing: prof. Oana calls the bell a LiaoDy Charm Pendant. The abbreviation LiaoDy possibly means that the bell is from the Liao dynasty, as is another bell from the collection of prof. Oana. The bell is an alternative because of the 'nose'. In this picture the 'nose' is not clearly visible. In another example details are much clearer.

Reported: December 2010, by Prof. Oana.

On E-bay, in December 2011 two tiger bells of an alternative type B were for sale. The dealer calls them 'demon bells'.

The first bell is 6,3 cm high, the diameter is 4,9 cm. The weight is also given: 125 grams.

On the forehead we see a decoration of possibly Burmese characters.
The design is clearly based on the classic tiger bell type A.


Here we see a side view of the bell
which clearly demonstrates that the
bell is type B
On the other side we also see several characters, less clear than the characters in the first picture

The second bell is 6 cm. high, the diameter is 4,6 cm. The weight is also given: 95 grams.

The shape is that of a type B tiger bell; the design is a variation of
the type B tiger bell.

Reported by Harald Lux, December 2011

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