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Observations and conclusions



Distribution and use

  • The classic type A tiger bells have the widest distribution area. They occur in many countries in Northwest, Southwest and Southeast Asia and in Europe (Russia, Malta).
  • Although the tiger bells are clearly of Chinese origin, few tiger bells are reported in mainland China. However in the northeast and in the south of China these bells are found with ethnic minorities that practice animism and shamanism.
  • In most regions in Asia and with most ethnic groups, the type A tiger bells are related to shamanism and magic. In regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan with a shamanic pre-Islamic past these tiger bells were used as dance bells and amulets for animals.
  • With those groups that use the type A tiger bells for animals, these animals often have a special religious (dogs in Tibet) or supernatural (cats with the Minangkabau) status. With the Akha (Chang Mai region) and in one case in Burma, type A tiger bells seem to have been used for animals without any supernatural connotation.
  • Large numbers of type A tiger bells are found in the northern, southern and western extremes of the distribution area, from SE Siberia to SE Asia to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
    - In Southeast Siberia, Northeast China and Mongolia these bells were, and still are, used by shamans.
    Siberian shamanism used to be practiced by ethnic groups in SE Siberia (Ewenk, Nanay, Gilyak, etc.), NE China (Manchuria and Inner Mongolia: Solon, Manjagir), Mongolia and Tuva, etc.
    - In insular SE Asia these bells are found in large amounts in areas such as in Borneo (Sarawak and Kalimantan) and the Southern Philippines. The Iban and Bidayu Dayak from Sarawak have the largest numbers of tiger bells and use these bells as amulets and in shamanic rituals. In the southern Philippines (Mindanao, Mindoro) tiger bells are used as amulets and dance bells.
    - In the Afghanistan-Pakistan area they occur in large numbers with Muslim groups with a shamanic past such as the Hazara.
  • In Turkey, in a bazaar in Istanbul, three classic type A tiger bells were found. It has not yet been ascertained that they are connected to one or more ethnic groups in Turkey.
  • In Malta several dozens of tiger bells are in still in use by horse owners. The bells arrived in Malta at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. Malta was then part of the British Empire, together with other countries such as Hong Kong.
  • New type A tiger bells are found in Singapore, in China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan and South Siberia. New variations of the type A tiger bells are sold in Asia; in the Western world they are sold in Chinese shops and via Internet. These new bells are mass produced in China and possibly in Taiwan and Japan.
  • Since 2000 mass production of these new bells has started in factories in China.

Type B
Tiger bells type B have a smaller distribution area, restricted to the East Asian continent. They do not occur in insular SE Asia, and are rare in the Chinese and Siberian north east. However on the East Asian mainland the bells are very common and mostly used as animal bells, for yaks, horses and cows. In Nepal, Tibet and, occasionally, in Northeast China, B type tiger bells are used by shamans. In Thailand these bells are for sale in large numbers in handicraft shops but it was not clear what they were used for. One shopkeeper told me that they are sometimes used as door knobs in Chinese type houses.

Type C
Tiger bells type C are found in Nepal, where they are very common, in Bhutan and possibly in Tibet. These bells, tied to belts and chains are used by shamans, and for animals. The bells are reported to be produced in India (Dehra Dun, Rajpur). There is one report of a type C tiger bell in Mindoro (The Philippines).

Type D
Until now, tiger bells type D have been found in small numbers in Vietnam, Burma and probably Laos. They are used as horse bells (Vietnam, Laos) and as a musical instrument (Burma).

Alternatives
In several places variations of the type A bell and B bells are found. Alternative type A bells from Nepal, Syria and China and alternative type B bells from Bangladesh are examples. Some variations occur in large numbers. Many of these bells are newly made. An alternative bell from Kazakhstan is possibly old to very old.

No tiger bells present
There are no reports of tiger bells in Sikkim, Sri Lanka and most of Islamic Southwest and Islamic West Asia (except Turkey and Syria).

Focus on tiger bells type A
The distribution patterns and the information available on the types B, C, D and the Alternatives are either too general (type B) or too limited (type C and D) to come to any conclusions on their age and history. The Alternatives have too many differences in design and distribution and the majority is, most likely, recently made. The tigerbell from Kazakhstan is possibly an exception. The bell is a mix of type A, type B and type C elements. It dates from the 13th - 15th century and thus its presence coincides with the Mongol invasions. Distribution could have taken place by the Mongol arrnies and their shamans or by traders traveling along the Silk route.

Type A tiger bells are distributed in distinct patterns and over often identifiable groups of people. These bells were and are highly valued and sometimes revered by their owners who went to great length to obtain them. This and their enormous distribution area, make these bells a better subject to try to follow them through time and location over the Asian continent. Therefore I will concentrate on the classic type A tiger bell.


Age of the classic tiger bells

On the age of the tiger bells information varies. The estimates given here are from new to old:

  • New tiger bells are being produced in East China, Peking, Taiwan and Japan.
  • In 1974 one Tagakaolu tribesman (from Mindanao, the Philippines) said that the tiger bells in possession of the group were older than fifty years. This estimate gave more an impression of a very long time than an accurate estimate.
  • In Malta several dozens of tiger bells were bought by local horse owners. They claim that these bells are more than one hundred years old (reported in 2011).
  • One antique dealer in Nanking sold one tiger bell of a rough A type and said that the bell was from the Kuang Hsu dynasty which ruled from 1875 - 1908. The bell would be about 100 to 150 years old.
  • A horse bell of which the design is a variation close to the classic tiger bells, is said to originate from the Manchu Qing dynasty (AD 1644 - 1911).
  • In the book The costume of the Russian Empire an illustration of a shaman's costume from the Mongols is shown. Attached to the costume are bronze mirrors and several bronze bells, possibly tiger bells. The book was published in 1803; the travels the book describes took place at the end of the 18th century.
  • On E-bay one bell from Afghanistan is presented as dating from 1700 - 1800 AD. The same company offers a bell from Pakistan dating from 1600 - 1700 AD. Thus the age of the bells would be about 300 to 400 years old. (However the link of the arrival of these bells with the Mongolian armies and their Hazara and Turkic soldiers could bring the age back to the 15th and even the 13th century.)
  • A tiger bell offered on E-bay is from the Middle East (no country or region is given) and is presented as being from the 15th to the 16th century.
  • The two tiger bells from Russia that were found in a potato field near Tver (150 km. northwest of Moscow) can probably be dated as from the Mongol invasions in the 13th to 15th century. Coins that were found in the neighborhood of the bells date from the 16th century. The history of one tiger bell in Kazakhstan is probably also related to these Mongol invasions.
  • One antique dealer in Singapore, Tiepolo's Mr.David Mun, said that the bells were not older than 600 to 700 years and probably from what he calls the Han dynasty (this is a problem since in the chronology the Han dynasty iss from appr. 200 BC to 200 AC).
  • Ethnographics, curio and antique dealer Eddy Lauren in Legian, Bali, stated that a small tiger bell from Timor was from 'before Majapahit', about 1300 AD, so older than 700 years.
  • Anthropologist and Tungus-expert, the late Mr. S. M. Shirokogoroff dated the emergence of Siberian shamanism during the 11th century. That included the development of ceremonies, the role and presence of the drum and the costume, with its metal attributes such as bronze mirrors (toli) and tiger bells. That would mean that the oldest tiger bells could be dated at the same period: appr. 900 years ago, or, possibly, earlier.
  • Tom Ulbrich and Bui Kim Dinh from Vietnam reported a tiger bell from Northern Vietnam. The bell's age was estimated at about 1000 years by an antique dealer and expert. This would bring the age close to the Tang dynasty given by the following estimate:
  • One antique dealer in Klaten (Mr. Om Bram, East Java) had a small A type tiger bell. According to him the bell was from the Tang dynasty, about 600 to 900 AD. That would set the bells' age at about 1100 years. During the Tang dynasty large scale production of small and medium sized bronze objects using the lost wax process took place, among them mirrors and bells, among them most likely tiger bells.

In short:
Large scale production of small bronze objects such as tiger bells and mirrors started in the Tang period, about 600 to 900 AD.
Mr. Shirokogoroff estimates of the emergence of Siberian shamanism, and the large scale use of paraphernalia such as tiger bells and mirrors with it, at about 900 years ago during the 11th century..
With the rise of the Mongolian empire, with shamanism as the court religion, and the expeditions of the Mongolian armies over the Asian continent, the remarkable distribution of tiger bells was effected during a period of about 200 years, from about 1300 to 1500 AD.


Production
  • There are many variations in the design and the quality of the classic tiger bells. They were produced with the lost wax process, probably using clay and creamic molds and stamps. Because of the wide distribution area and the sometimes large concentrations found, type A tiger bells must have been produced on a large scale, probably by the thousands. This would explain the many variations: even using molds or stamps, the lost wax process could not guarantee identical products: molds wear out, stamps are made again and again from copies made of copies. However the basic motif has remained remarkably unchanged.
  • Tiger bells larger than about 2,5 cm. have different sides, notable in the characters and minor differences in the design. The smaller bells have identical sides.
  • Tiger bells were produced in batches. Through time, different molds were used: tiger bells from Afghanistan, Pakistan and East Kalimantan are almost identical; some Iban bells and the bell from the Bahau Dayak are identical to the Kaudern bell from Sulawesi.
  • Some bells look new, others are roughly finished. With some bells the motif has changed, the lines are of poor quality, hoops are rough, or round instead of rectangular, the hole in the hoop sometimes not centered. These things indicate mass-production with at times less strict quality control. The center of production, and probably also the origin of the tiger bells, is almost certainly in Northcentral China (see below). There is one indication of supporting production facilities in another part of Asia (Taiwan) but most likely the majority came from Central China region.
  • In the paper An investigation of early Chinese bronze mirrors at the Harvard University Art Museums by Susan D. Costello (2014), the author studies the museum's collection of ancient bronze Chinese objects such as vessels, Buddhist sculptures, bells and mirrors. The study concentrates on the mirrors but many of the statements also apply to the production of other bronze objects such as the tiger bells and bronze mirrors that have been used for hundreds of years by East Asian shamans. Early bronze mirrors were already produced during the Shang (1600 BC - 1050 BC) and Zhou (1046 BC - 256 BC) periods. They were used as decoration and as ritual attributes. The religion in those periods was shamanism. From the Warring States period (475 - 206 BC until the end of the Tang period (618 - 906 AC) the production of mirrors and other small and middle sized bronze objects flourished. During the Tang dynasty large numbers of mirrors, and possibly tiger bells, were produced because of the introduction of the lost wax process that made the large scale production of bronze objects possible. After the Tang dynasty the lost wax process got out of use and the production of small bronze objects gradually declined. However the mirrors and other objects such as the tiger bells continued to be used in the shamanic rituals of certain groups of people in East Asia. Among these people there remained a continuous demand for these objects.
  • So large scale production declined after the Tang period. This could mean that tiger bells were produced during the Tang period during a period of appr. 300 years, wherein the entire stock, many thousands, was produced and distributed. Possibly the production centre was in or near Xi'an (North Central China), the capital of the Tang dynasty.
  • It is possible that after the Tang period production of small bronze objects, and tiger bells in particular, continued on a smaller scale and in different locations because of the continuous demand for these objects. The variations in design and quality over the time support that idea. However if workshops were still active at f.e. the end of the 18th or 19th century at least some things would have been known about locations and centers of production. For now, when it comes to the type A tiger bells nothing is known about this.
  • When in the 11th century the Siberian shamanism complex was fully developed, the attributes that were already in use, such as the bronze mirrors and tiger bells were available in large numbers.
  • With the growing influence of Buddhism, shamanism and the use of ritual objects gradually disappeared from the main Chinese cultural scene, dominated by the Buddhist Han Chinese, remaining only in areas with ethnic minorities that continued to profess shamanism in the high north (Manchus, Tungus, Mongolians) and the south: ethnic groups in SE Asia and insular SE Asia.
  • Old alternative tiger bells were produced in other places in Asia, by local craftsmen.
  • In an article on the social status of users of different types of tiger bells among the Puyuma of Taiwan author Lancini Jen-Hao Cheng suggests that tiger bells have been and still are produced in Taiwan.
  • New variations of the tiger bells are made in a workshop in Peking.
  • A newly made alternative bell from Syria, for sale in hardware stores, is said to be produced locally. However the bell is identical to an similar bell from Korea, also newly made.
  • Since the year 2000 one and possibly more industrial factories in east China produce tiger bells in large quantities. These bells are offered on Internet websites all over the world, where they are often presented as old or antique bells. The new bells from southern Mongolia, the bells from Korea, several examples based on the design from the Qing dynasty and other alternative bells were most likely produced in this factory.
Many thousands...how many tiger bells are we talking about?
How many classic type A tiger bells have been produced is unknown but let us try to make a calculated guess:

To get an idea of the number of bells in one costume let's have a look at the shaman's costume from the Solon in the Copenhagen museum. This is a fine example of the costume as it was used by many shamans in the area comprising NE China (Mancuria), Inner Mongolia, SE Siberia and East Mongolia. How many shamans were active in that area at the height of shamanism is unknown but since families and villages had their own shaman the number must have been in the hundreds if not thousands. The Solon costume has in total 61 tiger bells attached. This is a large number bur fairly normal for that kind of costume. In a wider area the number of tiger bells on one costume is less. Many costumes have only two or three tiger bells or none. So let's set the average number at 50 tiger bells per costume including the other accessories (such as boxes, horse staves, ritual whips, etc.). If we set the number of shamans at 1000 at one point in time, we are dealing with 50.000 tiger bells. Again: this is a guess and the number is probably higher. Many of these costumes were destroyed in the beginning of the 20th century. Exact numbers of how many were destroyed are not available, as we also do not know what happened to the metal objects that were confiscated.

All these bells were produced using the lost wax process. Let us assume that In a primitive foundry production time of one tiger bell could be about 1 or 2 hours. That means the 50.000 bells could have been produced in roughly 50 to 100 years. But this is a wild guess and I will try to find a more accurate estimate.


Other observations
Tiger bells in insular SE Asia

In the Philippines, no tiger bells have been reported in North Luzon. We do find tiger bells in Mindoro (with the Manggyan), and in Palawan (the Tagbanwa). In South East Mindanao many tiger bells are found with several groups: Tagakaolu, Bagobo, B'laan, Mandaya, Manuvu. Other, sometimes neighboring groups in the region (T'boli, their neighboring B'laan, Tiruray) do not have tiger bells. The groups that have tiger bells also practice a different kind of gong chime playing technique: the gongs are suspended on a vertical frame. Groups without tiger bells such as most of the Muslim groups and the T'boli, play the gong chime on a horizontal frame.

In the Muslim region (West Mindanao and the Sulu Archipel), several tiger bells have been reported with the Maranaw and there is a report of tiger bells used as money 'in the Moro south'. The name 'Moro south' is sometimes used as a generic term for the non-Christian areas in Mindanao.

In Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo), tiger bells are common and used in large numbers with the Iban and the Bidayu Dayak. No tiger bells were reported with the Kelabit Dayak and the Melanau Dayak.

In Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) tiger bells are common and used in large numbers with groups such as the Kenyah, Kayan and Benuaq Dayak. The Ngadju are one large Dayak group without tiger bells.

Origin of the Iban of Sarawak
The Iban arrived in Borneo around 1675. They came over sea from Sumatra, Indonesia (hence the name Sea Dayak). DNA research has shown that their ancestors lived on the SE Asian mainland (the Thai Yuan), possibly in what is now northern Thailand, an area that is home to a number of ethnic groups that until today practice shamanism and used (and possibly still use) tiger bells (Karen, Akha, Hmong). It is possible that the Iban's ancestors, the Thai Yuan, brought their tiger bells from the SE Asian mainland, first to their location on Sumatra, then to Borneo. Possibly the growing influence of Islam in Sumatra forced the Iban's ancestors to leave the island.

Siberia: Neo-Siberians and Paleo-Siberians
In Eastern Siberia classic tiger bells occur in large numbers on the shaman costumes of ethnic groups belonging to the Neo-Siberians, e.g. the Ewenk and Nanay With these groups the shaman's costume is much more elaborately decorated than with groups belonging to the Paleo-Siberians. The Paleo-Siberian Gilyak are an exception: their shamanistic practices and attributes were strongly influenced by their immediate neighbor, the Neo-Siberian Ewenk.
Very few reports of tiger bells in mainland China
Although all tiger bells evidently demonstrate a Chinese origin, reports of tiger bells in mainland China are scarce. However in the far North and in the South tiger bells occur much more often. The bells are used as horse bells or as an amulet, in local or regional folklore, among ethnic minorities with shamanistic traditions. Concentrations are found in Yunnan in the south. Very large numbers of tiger bells occurred in the north, in former Mancuria and Inner Mongolia where they are an indispensable part of the shaman costume.

Tiger bells do not occur among the Han Chinese (China's main ethnic group), mainly because before communist rule they used to be Buddhist, China's major religion since appr. 200 BC. With the rule of the Manchu Qing dynasty in the 16th century shamanism became the court religion. It was however never adopted by the Han Chinese.


Shamanism and bronze objects in SE Siberia, NE China and Mongolia
The rituals of Siberian shamanism are best known from pictures and recordings of séances by the shamans of the Ewenk and related groups. Characteristic are the drum and a special costume decorated with many metal objects such as bronze mirrors, many bronze tiger bells and bells of other types (clapper bells, conical bells). This means that tiger bells could very well be in use in or before the 11th century (the period that Siberian shamanism found its definite format). Craftsmanship to produce these objects was since long present: bronze mirrors were already known long before the 11th century and the bronze casters of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600 - 250 BC) were capable of casting bronzes of incredible complexity.
Vessels in various shapes and large and small bells, either crotal or clapper bells were used in shamanic rituals, first in Central China, later in the east.
Decline and revival of shamanism in the former Soviet Union and China
At the beginning of the 20th century shamanism was banned by the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and China. Shamans were arrested, costumes and attributes destroyed. During that period several valuable costumes were given away or sold by shamans to explorers, such as H. Haslund Kristensen, to save them from destruction. The same happened in communist China. In the early 20th century shamanism was considered to be completely abolished. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 a revival of shamanism began in several East Siberian states. These new shamans, and the shamans that had survived the ban, needed, and need, the traditional paraphernalia. Most of these must be produced again, including the tiger bells. These new bells have variations in design but are clearly based on the tiger's head motif. In China shamanism is still strongly discouraged and considered to be dead, although re-enactments of séances are presented for tourists in regional museums in the North.

Europe
In Europe, tiger bells were found in Turkey, Malta, Russia and Great Britain:(in Wales and in a mausoleum in Mortlake (Greater London.

The presence in Turkey could possibly be related to the shamanic past of Turkish ethnic groups but that is not yet ascertained.

The presence in Malta is almost certainly a result of trade activities combined with a passion for horses during the period when Malta was part of the British Empire, together with a.o. Hong Kong.

The tiger bell found in Wales, Great Britain is too worn to be sure it really is a classic tiger bell. Except for the eyes, the remains of the design on its surface seem to be a combination of more or less parallel vertical and horizontal lines. Also the age is difficult to estimate. For now I presume that the bell's presence is a coincidence and has no links with shamanism or migration movements.

The tiger bells in the mausoleum of Sir Richard Francis Burton were most likely collected in England by his wife after his death, and were used to decorate his tomb. The origin is not known.

The bells from Tver, found by Dmitri Timoshenko in a potato field, are very old. He suggests that the bells were brought there during Mongol invasions in the 13th century. Because of the combination of age and location, both Dutch anthropologist Hendrik Wittenberg and I decided to go deeper into this suggestion, with results, given below.
The Mongol invasions, the Hazara and the Turkish armies

A map, found in Wikipedia, shows a remarkable similarity between the span of the Mongol Empire and the distribution area of the tiger bells. The religion of the Mongols was a mixture of Buddhist and shamanic elements. The Mongols influenced, and were influenced by, shamanism of the Tungus (Ewenk). Given the time in which these invasions took place (two centuries after the emergence of Siberian shamanism) it is likely that the Mongol invasions played a major role in the spread of elements of Siberian shamanism, and with that the tiger bells, over the Asian continent.

Hendrik Wittenberg reacted on the report of Mr. Timoshenko's find:

In my opinion the Mongols were the most important actors in the spread of the tiger bell 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 Javanese royals...

It is most likely that the presence of the tiger bell bell in Kazakhstan is also related to the movements of the Mongol armies.

Shamanism in Afghanistan and Pakistan
In a paper titled Malang, Sufis, and Mystics, dr. Muhammad Humayun Sidky describes the arrival of shamanism from North Asia into Afghanistan and Pakistan before Islam became the dominant religion.

In Central Asia, shamanism was once prevalent among the Turkic peoples, originally occupying the area of the Altai mountains. By the sixth century the Turks had invaded the Central Asian steppes, bringing with them their shamanistic beliefs along with cults of ancestors, stones, mountains, and the earth goddess Otukan...

Despite the Muslim hegemony which was established over a large section of Central Asia after the seventh century, many shamanic practices survived.

From the 13th to the 15th century the Mongols invaded many parts of Asia. Just as the Mongols, the inhabitants of Central and Northern Asia were animists and shamanists, among them the Hazara and Turkic people. They joined the Mongol armies. When the Mongols invaded Afghanistan and Pakistan, they met the descendants of earlier Turkic invaders (who were also shamanists and animists) from the 6th century. These descendants were Islamized but still practiced many shamanic rituals. The tiger bells, brought there by Mongol shamanism, were easily adopted. The Hazara stayed, some of the Turkic people traveled on. When Islam became more and more strict the tiger bells degraded from shaman attributes to dance bells, amulets and animal bells. Nowadays forms of shamanism are still practiced in Afghanistan.
New bells
From North America there is one report of a basket full of newly made tiger bells (similar to the Qing bell, a bell from Burma and a bell from Korea) in a Chinese shop in New York. Because of the large number of bells they were probably for local use, e.g. as an amulet (as in Singapore). The same happened in the Netherlands (Amsterdam). Since the year 2000 a new factory in East China mass produces various tiger bells. These bells are mostly sold via Internet.
In Japan one tiger bell is a modern copy, said to be made locally after a Chinese original.
How did the tiger bell come to cover such a wide area and is it a 'tracer'?

Summarizing:

Tiger bells (distinguishable from other jingle bells by the design: a tiger's face) are an important object in Siberian shamanism. They also occur as amulets and dance attributes in several parts of the entire Asian continent, in SE Asia and insular SE Asia (ISEA).

Since the beginning of Siberian shamanism in the 11th century tiger bells, together with other metal and bronze objects such as mirrors, were an indispensable part of the shaman's costume, particularly among the Neo-Siberians, mainly Ewenk and subgroups. Siberian shamanism was and is concentrated in the area East Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, SE Siberia and N. E. China (Manchuria).

Very likely, the majority of the classic type A tiger bells, many thousands, were produced in NE China, from the 11th century or earlier, until the 12th or 13th century.


Map showing the main movements of type A tiger bells over the Eurasian continent
(compare this map with the map of the Mongol Empire)

Although many of these bells remained within the area, large numbers were obtained by other ethnic groups by trade and barter. They too practiced shamanic rituals. In the course of time these groups migrated over the continent to other locations for various reasons. This process took place during three movements of groups of people. One movement took the tiger bells from Northern China's mainland to Taiwan (Ami, Puyuma). A second movement crossed China's mainland via Yunnan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Southern Philippines (e.g. Hmong (or Miao), Iban, Bagobo, etc.). The two movements to the south and southeast must have taken place between the emergence of shamanism in NE Asia in the 11th century and the end of the Mongol invasions, from the 13th to 15th century. The expansion of the Mongol empire was one of the causes for these movements and thus for the distribution of the tiger bells to the south and south east.

The third movement, responsible for the spread of the tiger bells to the west and southwest, was directly caused by the Mongol invasions. The Mongol armies were accompanied by shamans, and by soldiers of Turkic and Mongolian descent. They arrived in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. Ethnic groups in that area were already islamized but had a shamanic past and still practiced pre-Islamic shamanic rituals. The Mongol soldiers were assimilated by these groups. The mixed group became known as the Hazara. The Mongolian shamans brought the tiger bells into the Afghan-Pakistan area and further into the Middle east. Some Turkic people stayed, others went on further to the west, taking the tiger bells with them, into Eastern Europe.

These three movements can be traced by the presence of tiger bells in those areas. After the initial introduction by the shamans, tradesmen could have taken care of further supplies of tiger bells, produced in Northern China, using the intricate network of the Silk Route and its branches.

In the beginning of the 20th century shamanism was banned by the communist regimes in the Sovjet Union and the Peoples Republic of China and was considered to be dead. However, after the decline of the communist system in the Soviet Union, shamanism revived in some East Asian countries such as Tuva, Mongolia and Siberia. Costumes and attributes were and are made again and so are the tiger bells. Since 2000 AD tiger bells are produced in large numbers and several variations in at least one large scale factory in East China. These new bells are sold all over the world, in local shops and through the Internet. Most of these new tiger bells are easily distinguished from the tiger bells from before the 20th century.


Concluding: the three main movements of people mentioned above brought the tiger bells to where they are found until today. The movements were indirectly ánd directly caused by the Mongol expansion and invasions. The presence of tiger bells indicates how far the influence of the Mongols had reached. For these three movements the tiger bells can be seen as a tracer. Of course there were other factors as well that decided where the tiger bells would find a place. Trade is one such factor, gifts and barter are other factors. However the overall pattern was almost certainly decided by the influence of the shamans of the Mongolians.

The very first idea, a common origin for all ethnic groups that had or still have tiger bells, had to be abandoned in an early stage. The origin of the classic type A tiger bells is in the Central China area where they were produced during the Tang dynasty (600 - 900 AC). The tiger bells were not popular among the Buddhist Han Chinese and demand and use concentrated in the shamanic rituals of ethnic groups in East Mongolia, SE Siberia and NE China. The distribution over the continent started from there in the 11th century and went on until roughly the end of the Mongol invasions. By that time the distribution of tiger bells over the continent was more or less established.

Possibly in the periods after the Tang dynasty, when large scale production had stopped, small production units were started in various place over the continent to producce copies of tiger bells for local demand, as in Taiwan. Little is known about the locations of these units. Quality and design of these later tiger bells vary strongly. In recent times (20th and 21th century) large scale production factories have started to produce tiger bells by the many thousands. These bells are sold now mainly through internet, often presented as old and antique.


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