Although singing bowls are usually associated with Tibet their exact origin is uncertain. They have a long tradition in numerous countries including Nepal, Mongolia and China. The bowls are said to have been brought to Tibet along with Buddhism around the 8th century CE. It would probably be more accurate to describe them as Himalayan singing bowls however the term Tibetan appears to have stuck.
Today you can buy a variety of Tibetan singing bowls ranging from genuine antiques through modern versions made in the region to Western copies. Some experts argue that any bowl less than about 100 years old cannot really be classed as “authentic”, however genuine antiques are becoming increasingly difficult to find so buying the modern version is the only option for many purchasers.
Many modern bowls for sale today are honest about their origins, others have been known to attempt to pass themselves off as “vintage” – if in doubt it’s best to ask an expert before you buy.
What Is A Tibetan Singing Bowl?
A singing bowl is essentially just a simple metal or crystal bowl. What makes it special is the sound it can produce – its “song”. This varies according to materials and design, you can buy a deep tone singing bowl or one with a higher tone according to taste.
The bowl – which is usually between 5″ and 13″ in diameter – “sings” by resonating in much the same way as a glass does when you run a finger carefully around the rim. The bowl is usually played with a wooden mallet that is run around the outside. Some metal bowls can also be struck gently to produce a bell like sound.
Antique singing bowls were usually simple in design and rarely had more decoration than a few lines and circles. Modern versions often have more representational artwork such as pictures of dragons.
Some owners like to place their singing bowl on a special cushion to provide protection and balance.
The original singing bowls were often associated with Buddhist monks and used during meditation, a practice that continues today. Alternatively they can be used for relaxation, New Age purposes or simply for the sound they produce. According to some they can even assist the healing process.
According to legend the original bowls were made from an alloy of seven metals representing the seven planets then known. Today quartz crystal bowls are a popular alternative.