What are Tingshas? (Tibetan Hand Cymbals)

Awaken your spirit and summon peacefulness with the vibration of tingsha chimes.

Strike the hand cymbals together and a beautiful, clear, high note will rise from them to hang in the air and create an extraordinary stillness. The scintillating tone of the ting-sha instantly strikes a resonance within the human heart.

Their purpose is to summon, and they call us to awareness, to remember who we are, and to recognize our priorities in this often turbulent and illusive world. The distinguishing feature of ting-sha is that they are cast from bell metal, an amalgam of three to twelve metals, which produce the enduring and harmonic resonance.

When they are suspended horizontally and struck together, a delightful, oscillating wave of sound seems to pass between them as they reverberate at a high frequency, creating an impressive symphony of haunting sounds.

Tingshas have long been used for ritual purposes by Buddhist monks, nuns, yogis and yoginis. Today they are used by these and lay people alike. They are used in meditation, cleansing, healing and alignment.

When the two cymbal-shaped metal disks are struck together each produces a ringing sound of very slightly differing pitch. The combined effect gives rise to the unique 'shimmering' quality to the sound. Outside Tibetan Buddhism, shamanic use of tingshas also includes clearing space of negative energies and healing or balancing auric fields or to make an offering. They are also used to define the beginning and the end of a period of meditation.

The Tingshas that Zanzibar Trading Co. sells are hand cast by master bell makers for pure tone and long resonance. We source our Tingshas from several sources, including Nepal, Tibet and northern India (the Tibetan communities of Darmasala / Lingtsang).

Many of our tingshas are cast by Tibetan refugees, are fairly traded and a portion of their sale goes to help these artisans.

We assure FAIR TRADE guidelines are used when procuring our tingshas and we also pride ourselves in making sure that the artisans are working in safe working conditions. That face masks, protective eye wear, gloves and other safety items are used as well as sufficient ventilation is a requirement for our producers: mostly small family run (perhaps with extended family and an employee or two) foundries, often run out of the artisan's home or compound.

Our highest quality tingshas are produced in Lingtsang, a Tibetan refuge colony in northern India. A portion of each purchase price of our tingshas goes to training programs and a range of humanitarian programs managed by the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

Many of our tingshas are also produced in Nepal by both Tibetan refuges and Newari craftsmen.

A Tibetan master craftsman by the name of Soga oversees this process. Soga is from Kham, the eastern province of traditional Tibet. This region was known for its metal craft traditions, including producing the highest quality bells and tingsha.

Each tingsha is individually sand cast of a variety of metals, typically from a minimum of three (3) to a superior special seven (7) or more (up to 12) metal bell alloy that produces a powerful harmonic resonance when played.

The casting may include decoration of the upper surfaces - usually depicting dragons, the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" or the eight auspicious symbols (see section Aspects of Tibetan Buddhism). The undersurfaces will often be imprinted with Tibetan characters for "Om Ah Hung" which represents enlightened body, speech and mind.

Each cymbal is hand tuned and has a unique sonic “voiceprint”. Most are embellished with symbolic motifs, such as mantras , auspicious symbols or dragons. We personally find that plain (unadorned) tingshas tend to produce a better quality, purer and longer lasting tone.

When played as an instrument, tingshas form a part of a traditional Buddhas monastic orchestra but can also be used as a chime or "bell".

Tingshas are small hand cymbals that are struck edge to edge at right angles to produce a very penetrating sound. The Tingsha is sounded at the beginning and end of meditation sessions. At the beginning you let go of everything except the clean moment of here and now; at the end you awaken physically and spiritually in the here and now of material reality.

How are Tingshas played? To produce a clear, harmonic sound, grasp each cymbal by the cord, at the point where it enters the hole on tingsha. Hold firmly, and strike the edges together. This is most easily accomplished by angling one cymbal about 90 degrees to the other, rather than parallel. Allow the tingsha to ring until silent. Tingshas may be used as a sound marker to begin and end meditation and other activities.

Some believe that the pure, ringing vibration creates an opening in reality. They can direct or push energy, and can be used to diagnose. They have an attribute which is to 'fill' emptiness. They are also used in the 'Ceremony of the Hungry Ghosts', and to signal that a Buddhist Teaching is about to take place.

The sound of bells on anklets were worn by Buddhist monks to warn the bugs to get out of the way. These prayer chimes are traditionally used to focus and clear the mind before and after a teaching or meditation.

Some say the use of Tingshas is like a summons. It brings us to the here and now. Tingshas are also used for clearing negative energies and are used in Feng Shui to clear the energy present in a room and "open" it by sounding the tingshas in the four corners of a room. A great way to clear energy when smudging is not appropriate!

They have also been used as a summons to call "hungry ghosts", those beings characterized by small mouths and huge bellies, and in a perpetual state of wanting. By calling them and making an offering (be it food, incense or a prayer), their suffering is diminished. In the Boddhisattva tradition, only when all suffering is eliminated, can Enlightenment be achieved.

Today, especially in the west, some holistic practitioners use Tingshas to clear the chakras.

How are Tingshas made?. Click to the left if you'd like to read an article on how tingshas are made, how to determine quality and a bit about pricing.

Zanzibar Trading Company offers one of the largest selections of Tinghas online. To view our inventory, click here