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Little is known about this type of lute, probably linked to religious processions. The few instruments listed present varied shapes (as do the different models of sgra-snyan from the Himalayas) but with obvious similarities in construction and materials. The massive pieces of wood covered with brass, the blue and red glass beads, the horse’s head pegbox etc…

The description given by Mireille Helffer (1) perfectly summarizes the state of knowledge about this instrument.

“It remains to mention sumptuous lutes with bodies entirely encased in metal, with decorations of turquoise and coral; These instruments have in common that they are absolutely unsuitable for musical use and seem intended to play a figurative role. Some have a notched body and a peg in the shape of a horse’s head (Guimet MA 2237: six-string lute; Horniman Museum, no. unknown; National Museum in New Delhi, no. unknown, Victoria and Albert Museum 198-1937) and are similar to sgra-snyan; others, with a pear-shaped body, equipped with five strings, seem closer to the pi-p’a/biwa (Victoria and Albert Museum: IM 3-1938, L. 76.2 cm). One might wonder whether such instruments were not intended to be placed in the arms of a large statue, or to be carried during the solemn processions which once took place in Lhasa at New Year’s time. Some authors even go so far as to assert that an instrument of this type, brought to Tibet by the Chinese wife of Srong-btsan sgam-po, would have been preserved in the Jo-khang in Lhasa (Liui and Kiggel 1988: 87/ pl. 553-554). »

Length: 72cm Width: 17cm Body height: 9.5cm

Nb: A few missing pieces of brass have been replaced as well as a few pearls. Strings and a bridge were set up for the presentation.


Mr. Heffner: Mchod-rol. “Les instruments de la musique tibétaine.” Paris 1994