Tiger bells type B have a smaller distribution area, restricted to the East Asian continent. They do not occur in insular S.E. 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.Sometimes they are used as door knobs in Chinese type houses.
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).
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).
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 bells.
No tiger bells present
No tiger bells are reported in Japan, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Islamic South-West and West Asia, except Turkey, and the Arab part of the Middle East.
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. The tiger bells of type A are however distributed in distinct patterns and over identifiable groups. These bells are highly valued and sometimes even revered by their owners who went to great length to find a constant supply of tiger bells.This and their enormous distribution area, make these bells better subjects to try to follow them through time over the Asian continent. Therefore I will concentrate on the classic type A tiger bell only.
On the age of the tiger bells information varies. The estimates given here are from new to old:
Mr. Shirokogorov's estimate, about 900 years ago, seems to fit best with the rest of the events that caused the remarkable distribution of tiger bells.
In the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia (Sarawak), ethnic groups that have these bells are all descendants from a group sometimes called the Proto Malayans, in other sources they are referred to as the Ancient Peoples. However not all Ancient People have tiger bells.
Tiger bells in insular S.E.Asia
In the Philippines, no tiger bells have been reported in North Luzon. We do find tiger bells in Mindoro, with the Mangyan, 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 neighbouring groups in the region (T'boli, neighbouring B'laan, Tiruray) do not have tiger bells. The groups that have tiger bvells 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 moslim 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 Kalimantan (Indonesia 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.
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.
Origin of the Iban of Sarawak
The Iban arrived in Borneo in around 1675. They came from Sumatra, Indonesia. DNA research has shown that their ancestors lived on the S.E. Asian mainland, possibly in what is now northern Thailand, an area that is home to a number of ethnic groups that until today practise shamanism and used (and possibly still use) tiger bells (Karen, Akha, Hmong). It is possible that the Ibans' ancestors brought their tiger bells from the S.E. Asian mainland, first to their location on Sumatra, then to Borneo. Possibly the growing influence of Islam in Sumatra has forced the Iban's ancestors to leave the island.
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. 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 shamanic practices and attributes were strongly influenced by 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 China are scarce. The examples that I know off concern tiger bells used as an amulet, in local or regional folklore and among ethnic minorities, particularly in the south (Yunnan).
Large numbers of tiger bells however occur in the northern parts of today's China: Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, where for centuries shamanism was the main religion.The fact that tiger bells do not occur among the Han Chinese (China's main ethnic group) is probably because they were Buddhist, China's main religion since appr. 200 B.C.
Shamanism and bronze objects, in S.E. Siberia, N.E. China and Mongolia
The classic form of Siberian shamanism used to be practised by ethnic groups in S.E. Siberia (Ewenk, Nanaj, Gilyak, etc.), N.E. China (Manchuria and Inner Mongolia: Solon, Manjagir), Mongolia and Tuva, etc. This form of shamanism is 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 form of shamanism found its definite form in the 11th century (according to Tungus-expert S. Shirokogorov) and most likely included all bronze and other metal objects. This means that tiger bells could very well be from before the 11th century. Craftmanship 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 Chou dynasties (1600 - 250 BC) were capable of casting bronzes of incredible complexity.
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. This also ended the production of the attributes, including the tiger bells. All classic tiger bells are older than 100 years. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 a revival of shamanism began in several East Siberian states (e.g. Tuva). These new shamans or shamans that survived the ban need the traditional paraphernalia. Most of these however had been destroyed by local old regime leaders. Now these objects are being produced again and so are tiger bells. These new bells have variations in design but are clearly based on the tiger's head motif. In China shamanism is still discouraged and considered to be dead, although re-enactments of séances are presented for tourists in regional museums.
In Europe, tiger bells were found in Turkey, Malta and Russia. The presence in Turkey could possibly be related to the shamanic past of Turkish ethnic groups.
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 bells from Tver, found by Dmitri Timoshenko in a potato field, are very old. He suggests that the bells were brought along during Mongol invasions in the 13th century.
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. They 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 obvious 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.
This is confirmed by Dutch anthropologist Hendrik Wittenberg who reacted on the report of mr.Timoshenko's find. He writes the following: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...
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 descendents of the Turkic invaders from the 6th century. These descendents were now 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 travelled 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.
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.
Tiger bells (distinguishable from other jingle bells by the design: a tiger's face) are an important part of the shaman dress used in Siberian shamanism. They also occur as amulets and dance attributes in several parts of the Asian continent and in ISEA (Insular South East Asia).
Since the beginning of Siberian shamanism in the 11th century tiger bells, together with other metal and bronze objects, were an indispensable part of the shaman's costume, particularly among the Neo-Siberians, mainly Ewenk and sub-groups. Siberian shamanism was and is concentrated in the area East Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, S.E. Siberia and N. E. China (Manchuria).
Tiger bells were produced in large numbers in N.E. China, for hundreds of years: from the 11th century, possibly earlier, until the end of the 19th century.
Although many of these bells remained within the area, large numbers were transported to, and probably by ethnic groups who practiced shaman rituals; particularly in Taiwan, South China, continental S.E. Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, etc.) and ISEA. This process took place during two migrations: one from Northern China's mainland to Taiwan, and one crossing China's mainland via Yunnan, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. The time these migrations took place coincides with the emergence of shamanism in N.E. Asia and, relatively shortly after that, the Mongol invasions, from the 13th to 15th century. The invasions could very well have been one cause for these migrations,
The third migration responsible for the spread of the tiger bell 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 where the Mongol soldiers were assimilated by local islamised but still shamanism practising ethnic groups, thus forming the Hazara. Some Turkic people stayed, others went on further to the west. The Mongolian shamans brought the tiger bells into the Afghan-Pakistan area and, even further, into Eastern Europe.These three migrations are clearly indicated by the presence of the tiger bells. After the initial introduction by the shamans tradesmen could very well have taken care of further supplies of tiger bells, produced in Northern China.
Production of the tiger bells stopped at the beginning of the 20th century, when shamanism was banned by the Soviet and Chinese governments.After the decline of the communist system in the Soviet Union, shamanism revived in some East Asian countries (such as Tuva). Costumes and attributes are made again and so are the tiger bells. Since 2000 tiger bells are produced in large numbers and 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.
The very first idea, a common origin for all ethnic groups that had or have tiger bells, had to be abandoned in an early stage. When it comes to migration waves and movements of populations over continents, the reality is far more complex.
Concluding: the three main streams of migrations mentioned above brought the tiger bells to where they are now. Their presence indicates how far the influence of the Mongol invasions is noticeable. For these three migrations the tiger bells can be seen as migration tracers . 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 and the continuing demand for tiger bells by certain groups were almost certainly decided by the influence of the shamans of fhe Mongolians.
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