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date: 18 November 2019


  • Mireille Helffer


Tibetan trumpet. The name is a combination of rkang (leg bone, femur) and gling-(bu) (flute); it originally designated a trumpet made from a human femur (or sometimes a tibia), and also came to be used for bone trumpets covered in metal and even for short metal trumpets. The femur, preferably from the corpse of an adolescent girl or boy, a criminal, a person who had died violently or of a contagious disease (femurs from persons who died of old age or natural causes are relatively inefficacious), or even of a tiger, is shaped at the top to form a mouthpiece. The bone is left to dry out, thereby freeing the medullary canal, and two holes are bored through the base of the condyles. The bone can be decorated in various ways: sewn into a skin cover, bound with metal threads, provided with a horn or metal bell ornamented with precious stones, or entirely concealed in a decorated copper tube. It can also be fitted with a flat metal mouthpiece like that of the ...

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