Tibetan Buddhists often use tingshas during their meditation practices. A tingsha is a pair of small cymbals connected by a strap. Tingshas are used in prayer and rituals, and produce a clear, high-pitched tone when struck. A tingsha is a relatively small instrument, usually measuring between two and four inches in diameter (each). Tingshas are often embossed with a mantra, such as the popular “Om Mani Padme Hum”, which is said to invoke the nature of Chenrezig, the great Buddha of compassion. Many others are embossed with “Om Ah Hung”, which represents the attainment of Enlightenment. In addition to mantras, tingshas can be embellished with other religious symbols or icons, giving the instrument a deeper spiritual quality than plain tingshas. Tingshas are used for a wide variety of purposes, but mostly to clear the mind for meditative purposes. They can also be used in Feng Shui to clear the energy in a certain space, much like an auditory smudge stick.

Tingshas are produced by expert craftsman who mold melted metal made of an amalgam of up to 12 metals into the shape of this musical instrument and meditation tool. The primary substance used is bell bronze, which is an alloy of approximately 80% copper and 20% tin. Additional metals that may be added include: aluminum, iron, gold, silver, zinc, tin, nickel and manganese. In addition to these ores, craftsman may also include other rare metals to produce a superior sound quality. Tingshas are produced from many areas of southern Asia, including Nepal and India. Most are crafted, of course, by Tibetan refugees. Each cymbal is one of a kind, and tuned by hand to specific musical notes. The two cymbals are purposefully tuned to a slightly different pitch, in order to produce a poignant and evocative ring that will embellish the practice for which it is used.

The process of crafting a pair of tingshas is a complex one, involving many critical steps. The vast majority of finished tingshas do not pass inspection. Specially trained artisans first design the tingsha, then build a mold according to their specifications. After the mold is complete, the alloy mixture is heated to approximately 2,000 degrees. The melted metal is gathered into a ladle. Small amounts of copper are added to the viscous metal in the ladle before it is poured into the mold, which serves to purify the alloy. The copper causes the impurities to float to the surface, where they are simply skimmed off. From the ladle the metal is poured into the mold through a filtered cone, which serves to gently guide the metal and filter out additional impurities. If there is any metal left over after the molds are filled, it is put aside to harden, and will to be re-melted at a future time.

At this point the tingshas will be left to dry and harden. When the tingsha is ready, it is thoroughly inspected for any defects such as warps or cracks. If the tingsha doesn’t pass muster, it is re-melted and recast. If it passes inspection, the blackish tingsha is polished or sand blasted to make it sparkling and shiny. The tingsha is also tested to see if it meets tonal specifications. If it does not meet the craftman’s standards, it is melted down and cast into a new mold, or its alloy mixture is modified in order to achieve a more superior product. At this point the tingsha is tuned. The technician alters the structure of the tingsha by hammering, shaving, grinding, or trimming it. After this is complete, it is time for the tingsha to find its companion. The two are then joined by a leather or cotton strap, and the process is complete.

In a similar manner to Tibetan singing bowls, tingshas are graded for quality according to several categories. The bowls are considered of superior quality if they are made from an extensive variety of metals, as opposed to being crafted by merely three or four different alloys. Naturally, higher quality metals such as silver will also raise the level of quality for a pair of tingshas. Quality casting will improve its quality, particularly if it features intricate and attractive characters or symbols. The quality of the tingsha’s ring is one of the most important factors. A poor sounding tingsha is simply not desirable. Just like Tibetan singing bowls, a tingsha is considered of increasingly higher value the longer the tingshas ring when struck. Finally, the quality of the artisan’s tuning will greatly affect the worth of any pair of tingshas.

Author's Bio: 

Tingshas and Tibetan Singing Bowls are interesting items to Sylvia Smelcer, who is the owner of Buddhist e-commerce websites.