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also: ting shags, ting ting shags

gallery #1
audio #1


Contextual Associations

Ting-ting-shags, a pair of small cymbals, is a concussion idiophone associated with Tibetan Buddhist religious communities in China (the Autonomous Region of Tibet), India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Used alone (i.e., not in conjunction with other ritual instruments) by Buddhist monks during prayers to call spirit-beings to offerings (Ellingson, p. 576) and for confession ceremonies (Hefller, p. 21). This pair of ting-ting-shags has Buddhist icons cast into the exterior surfaces and writing in a South Asian script (unidentified) on its interior walls.


Each cymbal in a pair of ting-ting-shags is less than three inches in diameter but quite thick. Cast from bronze, they have a medium-size dome. Each end of a cord passes through a hole in that dome and is knotted internally to keep the cymbals together as a pair and to give the player something to hold onto.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The player, holding the connecting chord with both hands, brushes the rims of the two cymbals against one another horizontally to produce a delicate, ringing sound.  Each cymbal in the pair produces a distinct pitch—one of the cymbals pictured here produces a pitch that is a microtone below E7, the other a microtone above that same pitch. The slight difference between their frequencies of vibration produces a fast beat that gives rise to the shimmering tone quality of the ting-ting-shags (audio #1).


Small pairs of cymbals are found widely distributed throughout East, South, and Southeast Asia and are, or at one time were, associated, though not exclusively, with Buddhist practices. The ting-ting-shags may have been introduced to Tibet as early as the 7th century CE, when various strains of Buddhism were being introduced to Tibet from India. Cymbals of varying sizes and designs are known to have been used in Indian Buddhist ritual practices prior to the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet. 

Bibliographic Citations

Ellingson, Terry J. 1979. The Mandala of Sound: Concepts and Sound Structures of Tibetan Ritual Music. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Helffer, Mireille. 2014. “Ting-ting-shags.” GDMI v.5: 20-21.