Copper and brass trumpet

From Tibet
19th century AD

Sound and ritual on the roof of the world

Tibetan ritual practice involves the use of a wide variety of objects, such as images of Buddha and bodhisattvas, manuscripts, prayer whels and musical instruments. Among these are the vajra and ghanta (bell) held by bodhisattvas such as Vajrasattva. Although silent meditation is a feature of Buddhism all across Asia, music and processions have long been a prominent feature of Buddhist religious life. Sound plays an important part in Tibetan religious ritual. In part this reflects the shamanistic heritage of Tibetan Buddhism. Mantras are chanted by monks and may be accompanied by music played on trumpets, conch shells, cymbals and drums.

Trumpets such as this one are used inside monasteries, and outside, mounted on the roof of the temple. The note produced is deep and reverberating, and carries long distances in the thin, mountain air. They tend to be played in pairs so that a continuous sound is produced so that the monks can take turn to pause for breath. Tibetan trumpets can be very long and so they are made in telescopic sections and compressed for storage. The copper sections of this long trumpet have brass rings with floral designs at the joins.

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More information


R. Fisher, Art of Tibet (Thames and Hudson, 1997)


Length: 6.000 inches (approx.)

Museum number

Asia OA 1933.5-8.38a


Gift of Sir Charles Bell KCSI, CMG


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