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Singing Bowl History

Where did singing bowls originate? The history of singing bowls begins at a time and culture with few written records, long before the advent of modern industrialization. The first metal bowls were likely made of pure copper well over 5,000 years ago. Brass, a mixture of copper with other metals, is a later technology still thousands of years old. There are stories that 2,000 year old brass bowls were in Tibet at the turn of the last century.

Antique Singing Bowl
While there is some folklore about the makers of the singing bowls, typically knowledge of a given singing bowl’s origin died with its first or second owner. Bowl making was literally a cottage industry with crude smelting and careful metalworking taking place in the home of the artisan. Skills were passed from generation to generation until the modern age where those ancient chains were broken.

Tibetan Singing Bowl History

Common singing bowls, an important possession for very practical reasons, were likely the regular product of artisans. Very special singing bowls were sometimes made to order. For some of the most special bowls, a highly skilled artisan might be provided with very unique materials. Many Tibetan singing bowls were made in Nepal as were a number of other manufactured items over the last millennium. It’s likely that specific sound qualities were designed with sound healing in mind.

Mani Stones
Some singing bowls such as those with lingams, were obviously made for ceremonial use. Sometimes they bear inscriptions indicating they were gifts to monasteries. The incredible musical qualities of some singing bowls would lead one to believe these were intentionally tuned for specific resonance. The fact that it is possible to make functional brass bowls with less expensive metals is evidence many premium quality singing bowls were made with sound in mind. However, the real history of the bowls and intentions of the makers are lost in time.

The Tibetans had the gold and the Nepalis the skills. Many Tibetan singing bowls and other ritual objects were made in Nepal, often of material that originated in Tibet, and then sent over the Himalayas. There is disagreement about whether large numbers singing bowls were ever made in Tibetan monasteries. We know that metallurgy of the type used in the bowls has existed in this area for thousands of years.The tremendous pressure that created the Himalayas also created unique alloys of metals, which are close to the surface. Antique copper and antique brass objects are relatively common in this part of the world.

Singing Bowls as a Storehouse of Value

Really old singing bowls tend to be very thick and heavy, in many cases impractically so. I recently heard a plausible explanation for this. In a society where the only kind of currency was coins and the value of that currency was based on its weight and metallic composition singing bowls were able to be used like money. Each village would have a metal handler who would happily exchange the currency of the land for the intrinsic value in the weight of the bowls. Heavy bowls were often given as wedding gifts and the better off would periodically exchange their worn bowls for new ones.

What Were Singing Bowls Used For?

I have done some research into the instances of brass and copper bowl use documented in Nepal and Tibet by English language sources published sources prior to 1950. The most common uses I found were for storage of water and grains and for use as bowls and cups. There were a number of references to brass bowls being a common dowry item or wedding gift which would attest to their practical utility. Bowls were used in conjunction with charcoal and tobacco. I came across to one reference where a bowl was used for divination (via reading a broken egg). There are relatively few references to bowls and sounds. In a way this isn’t surprising as many inner practices were entirely hidden from outsiders, especially in virtually inaccessible Tibet.

Singing Bowl Stories

One story I heard about the making of the Tibetan singing bowls was that an order for a set of singing bowls might include instructions such as “dig in the riverbank at such and such location”. The idea is that unique alloys were specifically chosen for some of the singing bowls. One of the beauties of antique singing bowls is the individuality of their composition. In addition to copper and tin there are traces of many other metals; up to 12 different metals in some cases.

While the term Tibetan singing bowl might be a modern construction the blending of sound and practice goes back further in Tibet even than the introduction of Buddhism. In the Bon tradition as well as all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism bells, horns and gongs are used in ceremony. One early visitor to Tibet reported in a 1909 book of witnessing a ceremony of a thousand monks each making a sound with their own bowl. People have told me of meeting Tibetan refugees in the 1960’s and 1970’s who were selling “sound bowls” they had brought over the Himalayas. Just like the bowl makers art many of these sound practices have been lost. It is a rare Tibetan teacher that makes use of singing bowls in their practices today.

Some Other Writers on Singing Bowl History

Websites with good information about Tibetan singing bowl history and dating are those of Mitch Nur and Frank Perry. Mitch traveled extensively in the Himalayas prior to the 1980’s and studied with a number of teachers there. Frank has been collecting singing bowls since the early 1970’s and has singing bowls brought back from Tibet in the early 1900’s in his collection. So both these men have firsthand knowledge of singing bowls prior to their popularity and the advent of fakes. Their websites are full of information about many aspects of Tibetan singing bowls, including their origins, and are worth a read.

Recent Singing Bowl History

Who?
What we do know is that in the recent past, say 50-60 years ago, handmade brass bowls were the staple in kitchens and the marketplace for storage eating and cooking. You never see spices in a street market displayed in a singing bowl or get served dal in one anymore but that was common in living memory.

At the present time the bowls are coming out of the homes in rural communities for the practical reason that modern plastics, aluminum and stainless steel are better suited for the mundane tasks these artifacts are now employed for. A bowl that has been in a home for generations is easily let go of because items of antiquity are simply not valued in that culture in the way antiques are in ours.

How many antique singing bowls were there – and what has become of them.

How to estimate the age of an old Himalayan bowl

The interesting parallel history of old US coins in the 60’s and old singing bowls today

What antique singing bowls might be worth in the future

What Our Customers Say

Bob MetivierBob Metivier
17:26 09 May 24
Ryan, your L6 medium mallet is amazing! Your attention to particular needs in detail is the reason I decided to make my purchases with you.
Aria ThomeAria Thome
17:28 22 Apr 24
Ryan is absolutely amazing at his craft. He cares so deeply that you get matched with the right bowl(s) and will go out of his way to make this happen for you. His knowledge is unsurpassable and purchasing from him allows you to tap into his bottomless education and knowledge!!
Zara D'SouzaZara D'Souza
15:43 03 Apr 24
My entire experience was so seamless. The website is so flexible and easy to navigate. For anyone looking to build a bowl collection, this is the right place to go. I highly recommend reaching out to Ryan. He was so helpful and supportive in guiding me and making sure I make the right decisions. His suggestions were spot on and Im glad I trusted him!! The shipping and tracking was really great as well. The bowls were well packaged when shipped to me. I got an email with the tracking info and Ryan was a great communicator during this phase as well. In the end, I am very happy with the set I acquired.
Zachary NewtonZachary Newton
16:32 14 Mar 24
You are in excellent hands here with Ryan if you are just embarking on your singing bowl journey.I came knowing I wanted a deep resonant bowl or two when I initially reached out. This began a months' long dialogue with Ryan, who was nothing but patient and generous with his time, sending me recordings of additional bowls not on the website and answering my many questions. Over this period, I spent hours listening to dozens of bowls, beginning to figure out what resonated most with me and expanding my search from there. I ended up putting together a small set. When I found a few bowls I was pretty sure I wanted to be the core of this set, Ryan offered to put them on hold for me while I spent some more time listening to additional bowls. So whether you know exactly what you want, or you just have a vague inclination and see yourself at the beginning of a journey--like I was--you have come to a good place.When I finally made up my mind and ordered my bowls, they arrived impeccably packed and already sounding familiar after having spent months listening to their recordings. I have been very happy with them. In the months since, I have spent many hours playing them, and have even added a couple more. I am still on that Journey I began a year ago, and I continue to value the care and patience that Ryan puts into his work as a guide along my path.
Philip MartinPhilip Martin
23:15 08 Mar 24
I heard about singing bowls many years ago but stored their existence in memory. I recently heard what they sounded like on a recording, which piqued my interest. I began looking into where I could obtain some of these bowls and found many options on the internet. I decided on Best Singing Bowls. The website has many different bowls that allow searching for specific notes, octaves, types of bowls, and much more. The website has an image of the bowl and two soundtracks that let you hear what the bowl sounds like. I found this very helpful and received help from Best Singing Bowls on how to play the bowls, the types of ringers and mallets, and the bowl's history. I asked many questions because I knew little about singing bowls. Delivery of the orders came exceptionally fast. I will look to Best Singing Bowls for future additions and ask for the promptly answered guidance I found immeasurably helpful. I found the entire experience very straightforward and seamless. The website has a vast amount of information on the many tabs related to singing bowls.
SvetaSveta
03:56 12 Feb 24
This was the best shopping experience I have ever had online. Ryan has provided an exceptional customer service. He replied to all my questions timely and his suggestions helped me to find the perfect addition to my set. I am very satisfied with the quality and the sound of my newly acquired ancient singing bowls. I received them within a few days of the purchase. Thank you, Ryan!
Jim ManganiJim Mangani
13:32 14 Dec 23
Ryan provides outstanding customer service, quality bowls, and every accessory you might need at highly competitive prices. I've purchased his precision mallet set which is a must for anybody serious about getting the most out of their instruments, in addition to a number of other accessories. I recently purchased a large jambati and Ryan answered all my questions quickly and courteously. He has always shipped items quickly and is a man of his word. You can feel confident doing business with him. On top of this, he has one of the best websites in the business for sorting through his expansive inventory. If you're considering buying anything from him, you should not hesitate!
“Best Singing Bowls is absolutely the right name for Ryan’s collection! It’s been many occasions for many years now that I have not only found bowls with beautiful sounds and energy in Ryan’s collection - but also the kind of bowls that you know the instant you ring them that they are special - unique - with a sound and a power beyond normal understanding. That’s the beauty and the magic of singing bowls. And on top of that Ryan is the best to guide you - always withimmediate precise response and he provides a fast and secure shipment. I can highly recommend Ryan and Best Singing Bowls.” - Shanti inga
Mojca StudenMojca Studen
07:03 22 Nov 23
The very experience of choosing the singing bowls was a pleasure; not only are the audio recordings of the bowls extremely high quality, the collector Ryan himself kindly offered to help me a lot in choosing the right bowls.The shipment arrived quickly, even across the Atlantic.I am absolutely delighted with the singing bowls I bought! The richness of sound and resonances is extraordinary. And all this for a fairly affordable price.Ryan thank you!
Laurie LowenLaurie Lowen
12:29 03 Nov 23
Ryan will answer every question that you have honestly and knowledgeably.He has gathered the best and largest collection of antique Tibetan Singing Bowls in the world.He has a huge inventory that is all cataloged with musical chakra note(s), vibration in hertz, condition, decoration, inscription and includes actual sound for you to listen to the bowl being used with a beater and with a wand. He has tons of wands and beaters to choose from, including those handmade by Frank Perry the world’s leading authority on Himalayan bowls in England.I started with one bowl and was so happy with it and what it did for my life, that over the past two years, I now have six bowls that I have gotten from Ryan. I love every single bowl and play them all every day just for me.These Tibetan bowls are way more powerful than the crystal bowls that are in vogue. Crystal bowls are machine made and have no history. The bowls that Ryan collects and sells are full of old wisdom and energy and years of use. If you listen while you play one, you will receive information and understanding and they will actually tell you how to play them and talk to you. I am a shamanic drum practitioner for the last 30 years and these are one of the best tools in addition to drums for healing that I have ever used. If you are ready to open yourself and receive healing and peace….get one of these bowls. I can guarantee you this as that has happened to me. You will find there is one there that is calling you. Blessings to whoever reads this🙏
Lisa BushmanLisa Bushman
21:26 17 Jan 23
Ryan has helped me develop a set of singing bowls for my sound studio in OH. He has a large selection of bowls and they have great sound quality. Love working with him!
at01musicat01music
19:22 28 Nov 22
I have been collecting antique singing bowls for over 10 years and just recently discovered Best Singing Bowls’ online store. In a short time, it has become my go-to for finding new bowls that add interest to my singing bowl arrangements. BSB’s inventory is quite large and includes types of antique bronze bowls with different geometries and thicknesses I haven’t seen or listened to before.At first, I was drawn just to familiar jambati and thadobati bowls, but after exploring other possibilities I have become a fan of the otherly-appearing trapezoid bowl. The first one I selected sounds cold as steel and reminds me of the clang of a temple bell I heard every day I was in Varanasi 24 years ago. Another small trapezoid I found has a tone similar to its thadobati companions and contributes a well-tuned 5th octave G#, the new crowning high note of my bowl set.My singing bowl experience has also been enlivened by the Best Singing Bowls Precision Mallet sets. The weights and hardness’s of the mallet heads are designed to produce varying tone colors for small, medium and large bowls. The length and balance of the stick handles make it easier for me to reach bowls and strike them accurately in a timely way with less effort than before. They are fun to use and have mostly replaced my use of other strikers. I love to play the bowls and listen to their tones and harmonics interacting to create kaleidoscopic, resonant patterns that gradually fade away into silence when playing stops. For me, it is an exquisite and deeply comforting sound (and no sound) experience.As others mention, the sound recordings and detailed physical descriptions on the website make it easy to compare bowls and select one that best suits your needs. I’ve also found BSB’s customer support to be very responsive and helpful. Pricing is quite reasonable and return policies are buyer-friendly. Highly recommended!
Dylan TweneyDylan Tweney
18:12 23 Jun 22
Ryan has an amazing collection of singing bowls (which I mostly use as bells) and he's really helpful at providing personalized advice and guidance on which ones to select. I have bought two bowls from him so far and they are magnificent: they produce a variety of resonant sounds with long sustain and great complexity. I also really appreciate his efforts to provide accurate descriptions and high-quality sound files for each bowl.
Mel JonesMel Jones
15:57 13 Apr 22
Just wanted to say thank you for the speedy delivery. The bowls are both wonderful and a great addition to my small but happy collection. Appreciate the service.
Sara JennenSara Jennen
13:12 05 Apr 22
I was looking for a singing bowl. Started by looking at new bowls that were priced ridiculously and were obviously factory produced. I stumbled upon this site and filled out the contact form. Ryan got back to me within a few hours. He travels the world to collect antique bowls. He is obviously knowledgeable and passionate about the work he does. After a conversation where he learned a little about me and my intended use of the bowls, I ended up letting him select 3 for me from his extensive collection. I received manipuri bowls that sound magnificent. I have already begun incorporating them into my yoga and meditation practice. I intend to add to my collection over time. I hope that someday I can visit California to select my bowls in person....or maybe even Nepal;) Sat Nam.
Patty CarmodyPatty Carmody
23:54 28 Mar 22
I have been wanting to own a singing bowl for a long time and finally have received a beautiful one from Ryan. His website is interesting on its own for history and detailed knowledge and also has the capability of playing the different tones the bowls can produce. Mine was very true to that sound. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated Ryan’s patience and assist in choosing a bowl and the correct mallets. Mine has a low resonance with higher overtones depending on how it is played and is absolutely beautiful. All of his bowls are antique so you don’t have to worry about whether it is a “new” one made to look old. Everything in the process from beginning to end was a pleasure. No worries and the bowls arrived safe and sound (0h - that’s a good pun ha!) Thank you Ryan!
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Huge selection of antique singing bowls with detailed information and two sound clips.
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