Buddhist Ritual Tool: Tingsha
Tingshas are cymbals used as ritual tools in Tibetan Buddhist prayers and ceremonies. Tied to the two ends of a cord, they produce a pure, high-pitched sound when struck. Uniquely, the tone that emanates from them is an extremely long one. The name “tingsha” is derived from two syllables in Tibetan – “ting” is the sound produced by the metal and “sha” means “hanging”.
Tingshas were traditionally handcrafted, using the Tibetan sand-casting technique. Artisans used fine-grained, wet sand to create two moulds which they baked repeatedly over charcoal. Molten bell-metal, made of a tin and copper alloy would be poured into the moulds once they were ready. Finally, the artisan would hammer around the thick periphery of the tingshas, ensuring that each pair had an identical pitch. From selecting pure raw materials to skillful tuning, the ancient process of making tingshas was a devoted and painstaking endeavor. Modern techniques have considerably lowered the production complexities of tingshas.
Tingshas are used during specific rituals such as those in which food offerings or guidance prayers are made to “hungry ghosts.” This derives from the Hindu tradition of ancestor worship. The cymbals are also used for meditation. Their sound is said to cleanse the spirit, clearing the mind of all thoughts during meditation and paving the way for a post-meditation state of great mental clarity.