Tingsha are cymbals which are used by people of the Tibetan Buddhist faith. These cymbals may be rung as part of rituals and ceremonies, and they are also used during prayer and meditation. Many non-Buddhists appreciate the sound of tingsha, and these special chimes are sometimes used to clear the air in a room or to focus people's minds. The distinctive sound of tingsha also appears, incidentally, on many new age meditation and relaxation tapes.
These cymbals are always used in pairs. They are heavier than Western and Middle Eastern cymbals, and they are joined by a length of leather or chain. To play tingsha, someone strikes one cymbal against the other, generating a penetrating ringing noise. When not in use, the cymbals are usually stored in a protective pouch or case to prevent corrosion.
Tibetan Buddhists have been making tingsha for centuries, using metal alloys with a large amount of bronze to create a prolonged clear tone. The sustained note of a tingsha chime is one of the more distinctive features of these cymbals; tingsha can ring for several minutes when they are of high quality and they are manipulated well. Sometimes, tingsha are coated with metals like silver, gold, and copper to create a distinctive appearance and tone.
Many modern tingsha are made by indifferent craftspeople or mass production lines, and as a result, they have a rather inferior sound. A high quality pair of tingsha is perfectly matched, with each cymbal producing the exact same sound when the tingsha are struck. They should not sound dissonant: the goal is a clear, clean note with a prolonged, lingering finish. For this reason, many people like to try out tingsha before purchase, and some seek out antique tingsha, which tend to be better matched.
Along with many other ritual implements from Tibetan Buddhism, tingsha appeal to people who are not Buddhist, but merely interested in Tibetan art, music, and culture. As a result, they are often sold at shops which specialize in imported ethnic items for people who want to use them for meditation, prayer, or simply to create a desired atmosphere. Some people feel that since tingsha are ritual items, they should be treated with respect, even by people who are not of the Buddhist faith.