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chronological order (click here for latest update)
1974 - 1996
time my wife and I noticed the tiger bells
was during our stay in the Philippines (1973 - 1975). In 1975 we
returned to Europe overland and visited several countries. In Thailand
we found bells with the face-design but of a different
type. At the Tibetan Refugee market
in New Delhi (India) we found bells of the same type and with the
same design as we had seen in Thailand. Our last stop was in Paris,
France, where we visited the Musée de l'Homme. There
I found four bells on a shaman's dress
from the Tungus in North East Siberia. These bells were identical
to the bells we had seen in the Philippines. I decided to try to
find out the history of these bells.
I corresponded with several museums in Europe and received several
interesting reactions such as Ms.
Inger Wulffs' report of a tiger bell from Kelantan (Malaysia).
In 1976 I had the chance to work for six months in the Ethnological
Museum in Leyden (Neth.). This gave me access to the depots and
the library. That produced much new material: about 40 tiger bells,
the majority from Indonesia, some on
objects such as baby carriers, and several books with illustrations
and sometimes descriptions of the bells.
Information came in slowly.
However it became more and more clear that the history of the tiger
bells was a story worth investigating. In 1980 I had the chance
to work in Indonesia for a year. I accepted the job, not in the
least because this gave me the chance to be in a region where I
could continue the search for the tiger bells. My employer (an engineering
consultancy firm) had employees and projects all over the world.
Whenever I heard of a colleague going to an interesting place or
country I gave instructions and pictures of the tiger bells. That
first year extended to in total 10 years and many cases were added.
In 1991 we went back to the Netherlands. During the early '90s the
Internet became more and more accepted. It also became easier to
create a website and to have your own domain. In 1994 I opened my
first version of the website on the tiger bells. In 1996 the website
was taken up into the
Internet World Exhibition and won a, virtual, Gold Medal: the
site was considered to be an example of how the Internet will be
used in future scientific research.
Now follow in chronological
order the most important opinions and events since the opening
of the website, that contributed to the story of the tiger bells.
Please follow the links in the text but, once you have read the
case description, do not forget to click on the back-arrow to
come back to this page.
note that all cases reported during the period 1975 - 1994 (that
is befòre the site was published on the Internet) are all
presented in the individual Reports.
Lasi asks in what region of Pakistan
tiger bells occur. He will try to find out if there is a link
between the tiger bells and the Hazara, an ethnic group in
Northwest Pakistan that arrived there in the 13th to 15th
century, coming from Mongolia. Mr.
Lasi did not follow this up but several years later the role
of the Hazara people did become
frequencies of these tiger bells does not come as such a shock
to me. Years ago, I hypothesized the existence of a single
cultural group spanning much of Europe and Asia. Linguistic
and cultural similarities can be seen in several fragment
groups still surviving on both continents. (...) I can still
remember a few of these groups: Turkic Mongolian, Tungusic,
Finnic, Hungarian. Traces also exist in Korea and throughout
personal belief is that certain "Tribes" have certain "Totem"
animals which are drawn to the community through the Shamans,
or Medicine People.
the patchy distribution of the bells, you suggested that
such data might be useful for tracing patterns of ethnic
history and migration. Let me remind you of an often-underestimated
factor in cultural diversity: the need/desire of people
to distinguish their group from neighboring groups. We
see it very clearly within our own culture, as each subculture
develops its' own identity- badges. Often they are relatively
trivial: clothes, hairstyles, tattoos, speech patterns
or dialects, for example. But this same human characteristic,
when applied to traditional cultures, can have far-reaching,
profound influence on cultural evolution. I would suggest
that an understanding of the patchy distribution of tiger
bells could best be understood, at least at the local
level, with a style or fashion-based analysis.
That is, we don't wear tiger bells because they wear tiger
does not answer the questions on the origin. Why would (in
SE Mindanao) a Bagobo want to indicate that he feels related
to e.g. a Mansaka and not to a Tagabili? Also, certain musical
practices occur with the people with the tiger bell and
not with others (e.g. the set of hanging gongs).
is interesting; the presence of tiger bells correlates
with a particular type of gong playing. What other correlations
can be found? How about dance styles? If tiger bells
were used to accent a particular kind of dance, that
may relate to larger patterns of religion and ritual.
Reacting on the considerable age of the type A bells
(possibly around 700 years): It is quite possible
that major movements of peoples have taken place within
the last few centuries. I hadn't really thought about
how old these bells are; if they have been in the possession
of the same people for 700 years, then they could provide
a useful migration-tracer.
Gazis Sax (BA Anthropology, Pomona College, Claremont
California) referred to an article by Boas:
had in his collection hundreds of ivory needle cases
created by Eskimo craftspeople. These were not mass-produced,
identical artifacts, but showed many different forms.
He (Boas) writes:
conclusion which I draw from a comparison of the types
of needle cases here represented is that the flanged
needle cases represents an old conventional style,
which is ever present in the mind of the Eskimo artist
who sets about to carve a needle case The various
parts of the flanged needle case excite his imagination;
and a geometrical element here or there is developed
by him, in accordance with the general tendencies
of Eskimo art, into the representations of whole animals
or of parts of animals.... [If] we are to form an
acceptable theory of the origin of decorative designs,
it seems a safer method to form our judgment based
on examples the history of which can be traced with
a fair degree of certainty, rather than on speculations
in regard to the origin of remote forms for the development
of which no data are available. [Boas 1908]
In other words, culture plays a big role in how
people are going to take a basic object such as a
tiger bell and turn it into something else. Or to
even decide to use it at all! (Suppose people think
that tigers are evil -- would they want to have objects
representing their fear around?) The best way to find
out why people have or don't have tiger bells is simply
to do a little good ethnography, as the original poster
sought in the first place. This data will always beat
out the unsound and usually untestable speculations
of certain reductionists.
comment: While the needle boxes were all unique products
made by individuals, the tiger bells were most probably
mass-produced by a small number of workshops in East
Asia ( possibly just one workshop). These workshops
produced for certain ethnic groups which had a continuous
demand for these bells because of religious or other
by the way, I have seen these bells in Indonesia:
on Bali (where I lived for one year) and
received two new reports, one of tiger bells
in Nagaland, Assam
and another report of tiger bells and the
in Mindoro, the Philippines.
den Otter reports a tiger bell, type
A, collected during her trip in Burma.
eight years of relative silence we received
three new reports on tiger bells. Two
reports by Annemarieke Koch, from
Bhutan, in October
2004 and from Syria
in April 2005, and one report in February
2005 by Dolf Heubers with three
tiger bells from Afghanistan.
Later he donated the bells to me.
...I have received
contradicting information and it is difficult to make any sense
of it. Almost everywhere bringing up the subject has led to great
surprise. No one had ever paid any attention to the bells. People
were however very willing to think and remember but this did not
always lead to consistent answers..
Brandeis (ethnomusicologist in Berlin) sent several photographs
of two bells he has received from a relative from Mindoro (see the
page on the Philippines). He
also sent a picture of a horse or yak belt from India, in the Ethnography
Museum in Vienna, see the page on India.
de Jong reported that several years ago she bought three small
tiger bells in a store specializing in products from China,
somewhere in Amsterdam.
In the Damstraat in Amsterdam we noticed an ethnic and curio shop
that uses a tiger bell as a door bell.
The entrance of an ethno- and curioshop
in the Damstraat, Amsterdam
reported a sale on E-bay of a tiger bell from China, dating from the
Kuang Hsu period (19th century). The
bell has a very peculiar design which is very different from other
In a paper
titled 'Malang, Sufis, and Mystics',
the author dr. Muhammad Humayun Sidky describes the arrival
of shamanism in Afghanistan. Could there be a connection between
the presence of tiger bells in the area and the Hazara
people, and the arrival of shamanism? I'm trying to contact the
author to hear his opinion on this (until now, 2015, without success).
ten Haaft organizes and guides trekking and camping trips to
remote areas in Northeastern Asia. He reports that he has seen several
tiger bells attached to shaman costumes in the National Museum in
Kyzyl, capital of Tuva. Now he is organizing a trip to Mongolia
this summer. He has promised to keep his eyes peeled for tiger bells
and report any interesting facts he finds. (2014: no reports
the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, Annemarie and Henk Orsel
bought three tiger bells of different sizes. They donated one
bell to me. The bells are of the A
type and similar to the tiger bells seen among groups in Indonesia
and other East Asian countries.
Toos Suyker and Jan Verdiessen had planned a cultural
journey to Tibet. I had asked them to keep their eyes peeled for
tiger bells. Unfortunately, due to personal circumstances the
trip could not be made. Their friend, I. van der Meulen,
did make the trip and brought back two
examples of tiger bells type B and C. The bells were reported
and photographed in 2009. Unfortunately no details were given.
the last several years, but in 2009 in particular, tiger bells
were swhown and often offered for sale (using the name tiger
bells) on Internet, Internet shops and E-bay. Unfortunately
details are often missing; some tiger bells are clearly newly
made and some are not tiger bells. Some of these cases are interesting.
A tiger bell from Vietnam was
taken up in this report. A tiger bell from
China is of particular interest because of its size.
Verzendaal reported that she had seen a box with several
dozens of tiger bells, for sale in the museum shop of
the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam. The price was
appr. € 10,- . She thought the bells were new copies,
therefore she did not buy one.
years later, in spring 2014, I visited the same museum
to find out if they still had these bells. The owner remembered
that she had sold the bells and that she had procured
them from Marcel van den Burg,
who had bought a number of these bells in the border area
between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So the bells were authentic
tiger bells, and, as we know now, probably very old.
there were several reports and developments since March 2008
it slowly became clear that the number of reactions that reached
us through the contact page of the website had come to a stand
still. It turned out that the software used to protect the site
from spam had not only blocked the spam but also stopped all
other messages. Luckily a directory could be found where copies
of the messages could be salvaged, be it without the appendices.
We tried to contact everyone who had sent a message. Among the
messages were several of importance to the story of the tiger
bells. Among them:
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.
Unfortunately the contact could not be re-established.
the television program Vrije geluiden (Free sounds) there
was a performance by Hanggai, a group from China,
playing music in fusion style, based on traditional music from
Mongolia and contemporary pop music. The drum set featured,
together with the usual contemporary cymbals and drums, a bundle
of metal bells, clearly tiger bells.
The drummer behind his drum set
One of the bundles of tiger bells
Screen shots: courtesy VPRO 'Vrije geluiden'
and the group Hanggai
After Hanggai's performance in Groningen in december
2010 the group allowed that pictures
were taken and an interview was given.
Marco Hadjidakis reported two B type tiger bells from Burma.
a website with address:
an older version
of the page on tiger bells in China from this report is copied
(with some inaccuracies in the lay out). All other text is
in Chinese. At the bottom of the page three icons of little
hands making a peace sign and three icons showing a pair of
shaking hands are placed. Could this indicate a positive reaction?
This is the first sign of interest in the subject from China.
Unfortunately the link does not work anymore.
interesting article by Lancini Jen-Hao Cheng on
the social status of various types of bells incl. tiger bells
among the Puyuma of Taiwan suggests
that tiger bells were made locally.
the book Shamanism in Siberia by M.C. Czaplicka
several paragraphs from the chapter
The accessories of the shaman concerning the role of
jingle bells are quoted.
I placed a post in the China History Forum with the question
'Have you seen this bell?', one forum member reacted with several
examples of tiger bells in Korea.
Scicluna of LSC Metal Finishing in Qormi, Malta,
reports that his firm frequently receives tiger bells from the
local population for chrome plating.
Hendrik Wittenberg donated one of the bells he bought in
New York to me. This allowed
me to make new photographs that show more details.
many questions about the tiger bells' history still need to be
answered, the answer to the question 'Where do all these apparently
new tiger bells that have popped up in various places all over
the world come from?' is now clear: a
large factory in East China mass-produces copies of various
types of tiger bells.
Harald Lux from
I bought six tiger
bells on the night market in Luang Prabang and two in
Luang Namtha, Laos. If you gave me your e-mail
address I would take pictures and send them...
In 2004, while in China
Claire Chantrenne, curator of the Music Instruments Museum
in Brussels, Belgium, bought in China a bundle
of four bells, of which two are tiger bells. The other two are
not tiger bells but occur regularly on objects in combination with
Ethnic weapons forum on the website www.vikingsword.com
I found a discussion on a Moro sword from Mindanao (The
Philippines) with four bells of which two are tiger bells. For
details click here. The kampilan
(local name of the sword) is the same type of weapon I had seen in
the publication Swords from Celebes. The group mentioned by
author Foy, are the Lanun. The Lanun, or Ilanun,
are a Muslim group living in Mindanao (and not in Sulawesi,
formerly called Celebes).
Timoshenko from Tver (Russia) sent an e-mail,
titled Hello from Russia. The message was short
Found two tiger
bells in Tver region in November 2011. If you are still interested
in them I can send you photos and give more details.
I received Mr. Timoshenko's report and photographs. While 'treasure
hunting' in a potato field using a metal detector, he found two tiger
bells. The potato field is located near Tver, about 150 km. north
the first case where tiger bells were found as an archeological find.
Go to the page.
Lux from Germany who earlier reported his find
of six tiger bells in Laos (see September)
mailed three links to announcements of tiger bells and
objects with tiger bells on E-bay:
first is a necklace from the Middle
East, from the 15th-16th century, with jade beads
and a tiger bell, type A.
second link leads to two type B bells from the
tribe in Vietnam.
incidents happened at the same time, triggered by
Mr. Timoshenko's find of two tiger bells in a potato
field in Tver (Russia):
the Wikipedia Internet Encyclopedia I found a
map of the Mongol
empire at the height of its power in the 13th
to the 15th century.
Dutch anthropologist Hendrik Wittenberg
a tiger bell he found in New York, U.S.A.)
reported that there is a striking similarity between
the distribution area of the type A tiger bells
and the Mongol empire at the height of its power
in the 13th to the 15th century.
Wilkinson of the Nonsuch gallery reports
a shaman's bell
chain from Tibet. The chain is more or less
similar to a chain from Nepal.
Dumanhug from Samal Island in the Philippines sent the
have got same bells from our ancestors...they are the
warriors and medicine man...am wondering where it comes
from......am in the Philippines...samal island sama
Island lies in the Davao Gulf, in South East Mindanao.
The Davao area is home to several ethnic minorities that had and
used tiger bells up to very recent times, and some probably still
do. I have contacted Mr. Dumanhug by e-mail but the mail was returned
as undeliverable. I hope that Mr. Dumanhug reads this and will contact
Beiner and Clifton McCracken of the Griffin
Gallery in Florida (USA) bought a set of three
tiger bells type B in Cambodia. This is the first report
of tiger bells in Cambodia.
Orsel from Eindhoven (Neth.) reports that
he has seen a documentary about a Roman Catholic missionary
who meets a Mongolian shaman. Among the shaman's attributes
two tiger bells
are clearly visible.
Roszel who lives in Jakarta (Indonesia) and
visits Palembang regularly mailed to me that he has several
tiger bells in his possession:
have purchased the tiger bells in Palembang (Sumatra)
where traditional divers found them in the deep of
the Musi river. They were scattered over the bottom
of the river. No other objects such as ceramics were
Elisabeth Luquin from Paris, France
is an anthropologist who has worked
in Mindoro, The Philippines. During
her stay she had seen three type A
tiger bells similar to the bells described
by musicologist Hans
Brandeis. She also reports a
type C tiger bell.
Lux who in September 2011
and December 2011 reported several
cases to the site, now reports about his visit to the
Ethnological Museum in Vienna. There he noticed a bundle
of mudang bells from Korea
with one tiger bell. The bell is newly made as are the
other bells; the object has been collected in the 21st
Lux reports a site DetectingWales.com
presenting a small crotal bell with
similarities to the A
type. The bell was found in Wales,
using a metal detector. Click
here for the report.
2013 / January 2014
in the episode
on Sir Richard
in December 2013.
In the documentary
in Mortlake (London)
is shown. In one
shot we see a
string with four
and four tiger
bells type A,
described as camel
taken from the documentary 'O'Hanlon's heroes: Sir Richard Burton'.
Picture courtesy VPRO The Netherlands
E-bay a bundle of new Mudang bells from Korea is offered.
We had seen bundles like these with bells without a
design but this bundle
has tiger bells attached.
a website on bronze mirrors from Mongolia and Southern
Siberia showed several shaman costumes from Southern
Siberia, Inner Mongolia and Mancuria. Three of them
are presented here on the page on the linguist and
anthropologist S. Shirokogoroff.
I visited the Hermitage museum in Amsterdam.
Several years ago a friend, Marijke Verzendaal,
had told me that she had seen a basket full with tiger
bells in the museum shop. Unfortunately no bells were
left but I found out the origin
of the bells.
(Internet) I found several photographs of an
Idu Mishmi tribesman
holding a ritual object with two tiger bells type
Lux reported two offers on E-bay of classic type
tiger bells, case
1 and case
Mr Lux also
reported a website with Hmong boys hats from South
China. One of the boys
hats had two tiger bells attached...
a website, from Germany in the Indonesian language,
selling Dayak curiosa. On offer was
an unknown object (possibly 2 objects) with tiger
E-bay several tiger bells were found that are worth
Shatohin from Kazakhstan
reports a tiger bell of an alternative
type close to type A, which he discovered
with a metal detector. The
bell is the fourth archeological
find, after Tver, Wales and Palembang.
is the latest, and possibly the last
rewrite. This is the best I could
do with the material and sources now
available. It is also the end of my
quest for the history of the tiger
bells. In comparison with the first
internet version published in 1996,
much has been discovered. However,
I am very well aware that many questions
remain unanswered and conclusions
are based on, be it calculated, guesswork.
Nevertheless history, and this history
in particular, does not end here.
Therefore I will keep this site open
as long as possible in order to provide
a home for new facts and ideas. So
please continue sending me cases and
ideas. Maybe this is not the last
rewrite after all.
Nièvre - France
Additional contributions and references
Dekker of Mandarin
Mansion gave us his explanation why the tiger head
motif is so important in Chinese and Manchu art and
months several things happened:
the website Pinterest I found a large number
of old and new photographs related to shamanism and
tiger bells. I downloaded several pictures of different
types of costumes, often in good resolution. With
the aid of several photo editing programs I could
detect many more tiger bells in the pictures. For
pictures of these costumes go to the page The
Walter Boer and Emmy van de Ven visited the
National Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark.
I had asked them to try to make one or more pictures
of the Solon costume
in the exhibition. Unfortunately the costume wasn't
there anymore. However they could buy a book in the
museum store, Shamanic regalia in the far north,
by Patricia Rieff Anawalt. In the chapter on Siberia,
Ms Anawalt discusses several costumes and mentions
the use of bronze-cast masks with shaman's costumes
and dates these masks back to 1200 BC. For this subject,
also see the page The
Bliek from Ojén (urb.
Mairena, Spain) reports two tiger
bells type A. One was bought in Sarawak
(Malaysia); the bell came from the
Iban. The other bell was bought in Saigon
(Vietnam) and was part of a bundle
of different bells.
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