Tiger bells in China
Two bronze bells, with the
design of a face with eyes. Also the more or less rectangular hoop
is present. However the other typical tiger bell elements are missing.
What is it then? The data:
Period: Liao Dynasty: AD 947 - 1211
collection of prof. Ovidiu Oana: a pair of bronze horse bells,
possibly funerary objects. (Prof. Oana also contributed pictures
of an alternative bell
30 mm. x 40 mm. x 25 mm.; weight: 20 gr. each.
gives the following information:
The Liao Dynasty,
907-1125, also known as the Khitan Empire, was an empire in East
Asia that ruled over the regions of Manchuria, Mongolia, and parts
of northern China proper. It was founded by the Yelü clan
of the Khitan people in the same year as Tang Dynasty collapsed
(907), even though its first ruler, Yelü Abaoji, did not
declare an era name until 916.
Although it was originally known as the Empire of the Khitan,
the Emperor Yelü Ruan officially adopted the name "Liao"
(formally "Great Liao") in 947 (938?).
The Liao Empire was destroyed by the Jurchen of the Jin Dynasty
in 1125. However, remnants of its people led by Yelü Dashi
established the Xi (Western) Liao Dynasty 1125-1220, also known
as Kara-Khitan Khanate, which survived until the arrival of Genghis
Khan's unified Mongolian army.
When I asked
prof. Oana who had identified these bells he gave me the following
of these bells as Liao bells was given to me by my supplier
from China, a very respectable antiques company. The bells seem
to be part of a number of objects found in several tombs from
the Liao-Dynasty (1093 1117), excavated not far from
The bells are very
worn. The design is not very clear but two eyes are clearly present.
Other details such as the Wang character or the long life character
(on B bells) and the floral curles are missing. The bells are
however too old te be classified as an alternative.
Oana's horse bells reminded me of a picture of a bell I had seen
in the magazine Sacred Hoop (issue 57). The picture is
not very clear and no details are given but there are evidently
similarities. In the Sacred Hoop magazine the bell is called
a 'new tiger bell'.
the bells from the Liao Dynasty (right) and from the Sacred Hoop magazine
(left). The bell on the left is (possibly) new; the bell on the right
is (possibly) very old. Is the bell on the right a predecessor of
the tiger bells or are both examples of yet another type of tiger
bell? We'll have to wait for more examples.
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