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. On the Tibetan Refugee
market in New Delhi 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 find out the history of these bells.
Back home I corresponded
with several museums in Europa and received several interesting
reactions such as Ms. Inger
Wulffs' report of a tiger bell from Kelantan. In 1976 I
had the chance to work for six months in the Ethnological Museum
in Leyden. This gave me access to the depots and the library.
That produced much new material: about 40 tiger bells, mostly
from Indonesia, some on objects such
as baby carriers, and several books with illustrations and sometimes
a description of the
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, also 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 collegue going to
an interesting place or country I gave instructons and pictures
of tiger bells. That first one year became in total 10 years
and many reports were added. In 1991 we went back to the Netherlands.
During the early '90s the internet became more and more important.
It also became easier to create a website and to have your own
domain. In 1996 I opened my first version of the website on
the tiger bells.
Now follow in
chronological order the most important opinions and events 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
Please note that
all cases reported during the period 1975 - 1996 (that is befòre
the site was published on the internet) are also 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
...the 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
...my personal belief is that certain "Tribes" have certain
"Totem" animals which are drawn to the community through
the Shamans, or Medicine People.
Regarding the patchy distribution of the bells, you suggested
that such data might be useful for tracing pattertns 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 bells.
My comment (in short): This 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).
That 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
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 possesion 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
in his collection hundreds of ivory needlecases 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 needlecases here represented is that the flanged
needlecase represents an old conventional style, which
is ever present in the mind of the Eskimo artist who
sets about to carve a needlecase. The various parts
of the flanged needlecase 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 judgement 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 tigerbell
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
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 various places in East Asia (or possibly only one
workshop). These workshops produced for certain ethnic
groups which had a continuous demand for these bells
because of religious or other reasons.
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
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..
Read the rest of his
report on the page on Afghanistan.
(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
Christine de Jong
reported that several years ago she bought three small tiger bells
in a store specialising 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 tiger bells.
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, 2013, without success).
ten Haaft organises and guides trekking and camping trips
to remote areas in North-Eastern 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 organising
a trip to Mongolia this summer. He
has promised to keep his eyes peeled for tiger bells and report
any interesting facts he finds. (November 2010: 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
2008 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 presented 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. A tiger bell from
China is of particular interest because of its size.
While 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:
reported in March 2009 that he has several tiger bells and
a small table or stool
with a toli (a bronze disk) and several tiger bells,
from a Mongolian (or Siberian) shaman.
In March 2010
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.
In 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.
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
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 accesories 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
aparrently 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 massproduces copies of various
types of tiger bells.
from Germany mailed:
I bought six tigerbells
on the night market in Luang Prabang and two in Luang
Namtha, Laos. If you gave me your email address I
would take pictures and send them...
See mr. Lux' pictures
and report on this link.
while in China Claire Chantrenne, curator of the Music
Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium, bought 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
On the 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
Timoshenko from Tver (Russia) sent an e-mail,
titled Hello from Russia. The message was short
two tigerbells 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 of Moscow.
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
tribe in Vietnam.
incidents happened, triggered by Mr. Timoshenko's
find of two tiger bells in a potato field in
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
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 following mail:
I 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
Samal 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 me again so we can try to find a solution
to this problem.
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 on 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 posession:
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
Go back, to the top
of the page,
continue to the Reports or to the Observations
All text and photographs are copyrighted,
for information please contact F.