9258

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    Tibetan Bone, Trade Bead & Chank Shell Mala or Rosary Beads (Sin-‘phen)

    Tibet
    18th-19th century

    circumference: approximately 62cm, diameter of main chank shell bead: 1.8cm, weight: 119g

    Available Enquire

    Provenance

    private collection, London.

    This beautiful Buddhist rosary (sin-‘phen) is of fine quality. The patina from age and handling is incontrovertible.

    The rosary comprises a large spherical bead carved from white chank shell; a ribbed chank shell bead and two smaller chank shell beads; many flattened spherical cream coloured beads of human bone; five coral-red glass beads probably made in Nepal; flat, serrated brass beads; two yellow Peking glass beads with central red stripes; and two fine finial beads of brass shaped as stylised dorjes. All are threaded on leather straps.

    The three round chank shell beads possibly are intended to symbolise the Buddhist trinity – the dharma, the Buddha, and the monkhood (sangha).

    The two groups of ten brass beads each are intended to serve as counters. All are present.

    Buddhist rosaries evolved from ancient Hindu-Indian mala prayer beads. In Tibet, they were used by both laymen and monks. They are supposed to comprise 108 beads plus others as counters, although sectarian variants might have as many as 111 beads plus counters. The main prayer beads were used to count repetitions of prayers and the counters were used to record multiples of the main beads, so that thousands of repetitions could be counted.

    Tibetan rosary beads made from human bone are relatively rare.

    The set here is in a very fine, stable and wearable condition. Each element is smooth from wear, and handling. The bone beads all have a beautiful, deep creamy patina.

    References

    Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.

    Sherr Dubin, L., The Worldwide History of Beads, Thames & Hudson, 2009.

    Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.

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