前言：這是一篇刊載於Art of Asia 1998 5-7月號 的文章，大概也是當時最詳細研究天鐵的文章，即使距今已有12年的時間，仍是不少收藏家的最佳參考資料。
作者JOHN V. BELEZZA是一位英國籍的探險和考古學家，同時參與幾個大學西藏學的研究團隊，本身精通中亞、印藏語言，他用了20年自己親身至拉達克及西藏做過很多田野考查，特別是一些古老的壁畫及飾品，這篇天鐵一文 ，內容非常詳盡，加上他個人旅行和考查時，收集不少天鐵(當時非常便宜，且品相都很佳)，這篇對喜愛天鐵者是相當重要的考證資料，尤其是照片部份，有很多是目前已難再找到的天鐵逸品。
再次重申這篇圖文版權屬於JOHN V. BELEZZA及Art of Asia ，如想看全文內容請向Art of Asia 訂閱，本文僅供考證和研究佐證之用。另外我英文並不佳，這篇有些拼錯和錯字，敬請見諒。
這裡提供JOHN V. BELEZZA的網站及現行他的一些收藏：http://www.asianart.com/articles/thogchags/
JOHN V. BELEZZA
THOGCHAGS ARE Tibetan talismans made of bronze and meteoric metal. They come in a vast array of designs and date from the Bronze Age to the mediaeval period. They are generally small objects ranging in size from one centimetre to eight or more centimetres, and a significant portion of them are thought to have been originally designed as amulets. Through the course of time, many ancient artefacts--bits of military costumes, jewellery, utilitarian objects such as spoons and mirrors, arrowheads, buttons and belt buckles--have come to be considered as thogchags.
What constitutes a thogchag is not always clear in Tibetan culture, however, the fundamental definition is a magical object which is believed to be self-formed and of celestial origins. Primarily thogchags are protective and luck-bestowing devices, that are believed by Tibetans to protect against harm by evil spirits, arrow and bullet strikes, attacks by wild animals, avalanches and a host of other misfortunes. A belief prevalent among the nomads of northern Tibet is that thogchags can prevent a person from being struck by lightning, a palpable danger in the wide open spaces of this part of the country. Moreover, thogchags are thought to attract positive energies which bring about good luck and prosperity and there are legends of people who had either nine or thirteen thogchags synonymous with great power and the fulfilment of all wishes.
There are several myths explaining the origins of thogchags. In one it is said that thogchags dropped from the mouths of sky-dwelling dragons to the earth below.
Another Tibetan tale speaks of rival magicians or ngagpa attacking each other with hailstones. It is thought that the projected hailstones were magically turned into thogchags as they flew through the air. Yet perhaps the most prevalent myth of origins revolves around a common Tibetan cosmological theme: the fecundating power of lightning. Tibetans believe that at certain times when lightning strikes the ground it generates a spark which reacts with wet earth to produce thogchags.
The thogchag's close personal association combined with their sacred status means that they have been carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, they are passed from mother to daughter, father to son, and from religious master to disciple. The specifics of this transmission from one generation to another have not generally been recorded, however, in a few cases, as with a famous line of lamas, thogchags can be traced back ten or more generations. As they are usually kept near a person and have rubbed against skin or clothing for many generations, thogchags often develop a deep, lustrous patina. This patina, which assumes brilliant bronze hues, is among the finest known on metal objects of any kind or provenance. Conversely, some thogchags were buried for long periods of time or otherwise discarded and exhibit various stages and types of bronze disease and verdigris. Some thogchags were made with clips or rings specifically designed so that they could be worn. Over time these wear out and are frequently broken. Sometimes holes form in a thogchag where a string has been attached to it and through many centuries of wear.
Thogchags are often found on the pasturelands by the Tibetan nomads or unearthed by plowmen in the agricultural regions of the country. Their chance discovery by lucky people reinforces their supernatural connotations. The well-known Tibetan master Choegyal Namkhai Norbu relates how he found a damaged thogchag as a youth--finding the lucky object was a good omen, but its damage signified adversity realized sometime later when he had to flee the country.
In Tibetan culture many religious and mystic phenomena are thought to be spontaneously produced and not to be the result of the ordinary laws of cause and effect. This phenomena of self-origination is called rangiung and is one of the distinguishing features of thogchags. Thogchags, because of their antiquity, have been divorced from their historical associations to become part of the great Tibetan mythus. While this adds to the mystique of the objects it renders enquiry into their identity very difficult. This is a major factor in why so little Tibetological scholarship has been conducted on the subject.
Thogchags are believed to have come from the heavens and are closely connected with the sky. In the pre-Buddhist Bon religion the sky or celestial realm is the source of the most auspicious and powerful deities. It is from the sky that ancient deities such as Namchi Gunggyal, the mother of the universe, appeared. In the Bon tradition the sky overarches the land and underworld and helps to regulate the chaotic powers contained within them. The awesome power and purity of the sky invests thogchags with great value and religious sentiment. Another allure of thogchags is that even among the relatively common designs there is enough variation to make each piece virtually unique.
Thogchags are often associated with indigenous Tibetan gods. References to thogchags are found in Tibetan texts where they appear as attributes of native deities that are often wrathful in nature, and have the effect of enhancing the power and standing of these deities. For example, in a text of rituals for Bon protector deities, the famous mountain god Nyenchenthanglha is given a thogchag by his grandfather, the ultimate progenitor of the gods, in order to subdue evil beings. Other texts speak of warrior deities having swords and armour made of meteoric metal.
Transliterated from the original Tibetan, thogchag reads: thog lcags. This can be literally translated as "thunder iron", referring to its links with lightning and thunder. However, the preferred etymology is "primordial metal", underscoring the talisman's primal origins. In ancient Bon myths of origin, the first gods appeared from the sky
which itself arose from a void, therefore thogchags in mythology are related to the
beginning of the universe, the appearance of the gods and by extension, to the founding of ClVdisatlon.
Complicating enquiry into the historical origins of thogchags is the fact that these talismans do not represent a homogeneous class of objects. In fact, under the label "thogchag" are objects belonging either directly or through imitation to a gamut of cultures that Tibet had contacts with. The earliest historical links seem to be with Bronze Age Sino-Tibetan cultures and the Central Asian Iron Age Saka-Scythians. A major stumbling block in understanding the early historical context remains the paucity of archaeological data. Since George Roerich discovered arrows and other metallic objects at graves and megaliths in northern Tibet seventy years ago, few advances have been made. As a result, it is difficult to distinguish the Tibetan Bronze Age from the Iron Age prompting some researchers instead to talk about a "Metal Age".
At present, specialists date the Metal Age in Tibet from the second millennium B.C.E. ('before common era) to the sixth century C.E. and the advent of Tibetan Imperial power (in contrast,.the Chinese Bronze Age is dated 2200 500 B.C.E.). Metal artifacts which evidently originate in Tibet and have been tentatively dated include a bronze dagger (800 500 B.C.E)and two bronze mirrors (800 3.00 B.C.E.). Recently, a bronze mirror decorated with a pair of engraved birds found In the Neolithic Chukhong site in the Lhasa Valley has been dated to 1800 B.C.E., and represents the oldest metallic object found to date in Tibet.
The first scholar to systematically study and describe thogchags was G. Tucci, one of the century's greatest Tibetologists (see his book Transhimalaya). He examined the preBuddhist genre of thogchags which exhibited designs and motifs related to indigenous religion and not belonging to China or India and inspired by Buddhism. His approach of identifying thogchags alien to Buddhism and ascribing a pre-Buddhist attribution on them remains an important tool of analysis-and will continue to be until more archaeological data is forthcoming. It was George Roerich who first noted similarities between certain Saka-Scythian artefacts and objects from Tibet. He classed these artefacts as belonging to the "Central Asian Animal Style" which features the depiction of animals often with their heads swung back to face their bodies. The carnivores and ungulates represented are cast in a bold and exuberant style, and in many instances form matching pairs. While the earliest thogchags in the Central Asian Animal Style are probably contemporaneous with similar Saka-Scy. thian artefacts (700 B.C.E.C.E. 150), this form of design and ornamentation was retained in Tibet. In the north of the country nomads still produce flint pouches and knife sheaths with characteristics of the Central Asian Animal Style.
Besides the Central Asian Animal Style, thogchag objects of actual Central As!an provenance are also found in Tibet. These include Scythian and Ordos bronzes which are considered thogchags by the Tibetans. For example, the Central Asian artefacts
shown in this article were obtained in Tibet. Their incorporation into Tibetan cultural beliefs indicates a long-standing association with Tibetans and suggests that intercourse
between Tibet and Central Asia goes back to prehistoric times.
Other stylistic affinities of thogchags revolve around the shamanistic cultures of Central and North Asia. For example, the Turko-Mongolian shamans of Siberia wear similar bronze rings and buttons as sacred ornamentation. In Tibetan and shamanistic cultures ancient bronze mirrors (called melung and toll respectively) are sought-after by spirit-mediums for their thaumaturgic powers.
Certain thogchag designs were influenced by Taoism such as a naked male figure and a kingly figure on horseback. While Shang and Zhou China are best-known for their bronze funerary vessels and ritual war implements, a large body of personal amulets were also produced that are still not well-catalogued. How these might have influenced Tibet is not yet known.
Thogchags from the Buddhist period (post-seventh century) often exhibit Indian influences. These include the ritual thunderbolt (a design which can be traced in Tibet to eighth century Dunhuang manuscripts) and the conjoined sun and moon symbols of tantric Buddhism. Other popular Buddhist motifs include bodhisattvas which were designed to be worn for protective purposes and to distinguish those who belonged to particular tantric cults. Pala and Gupta influences are clearly visible in the early Buddhist thogchags of deities, as well as Central Asian influences from the Khotanese and Sassanid kingdoms.
The historical precedent for thogchags lies in thogde, "primordial stones", a kind of primitive stone amulet. Thogde includes Tibetan Neolithic fetishes and Stone Age tools. Like thogchags, thogde are credited with having been self-formed and have talismanic value. For example, the direct precursor of dart-shaped thogchags are probably dartshaped Neolithic stone amulets or magical devices. Neolithic arrowheads, spearheads, rings and even Paleolithic choppers are all considered thogde, and are worn or enshrined for their purported supernatural properties. Another kind of thogde are meteorites (also called serdo or "hailstones" in Tibetan) which are among the oldest matter in the solar system. It is here that ancient Tibetan myth and modern science converge. Another category of thogde are do rangjung: special fossils and sacred stones. Talismanic stones similar to thogde are found in Nepal where they are called vajradunga, meaning "thunderbolt stone".
Among the closest parallels in design and form to thogchags are Tibetan cave paintings dating from the Neolithic through the historic period (post-seventh century). Engraved and painted compositions of animals, birds and anthropomorphs can bear a strong resemblance to thogchags. This affinity is particularly close in the case of native eagle deities of Tibet and primitive stupas. In certain nstances, similar motlfs were in all likelihood painted and cast in the same time period, explaining parallels in style.
Thogchags are usually worn close to the body as a sacred piece of jewellery in the form of a pendant or ring; or to ornament belts used to carry relic boxes (gau), pouches with mantras written inside and ritual implements. Among those who carried thogchags and displayed them during their performances were storytellers (drungkhen), professional well-wishers (drekar), spirit-mediums (lhawa), magicians (ngagpa) and certain wandering mystics (manipa). Thogchags were attached to magic staffs, drums, mantles, hats, bags, and instruments used in healing rituals. They signified mystic power, gnostic understanding and social prestige.
Thogchags are made of. bronze and, to a lesser extent, of meteoric metal. In Tibet bronze IS classified according to colour and content: there is red bronze (li mar), white bronze (li kar), yellow bronze (li sec)and bronze of eight metals (li tra), among others.
The most common alloys are the various types of yellow bronzes. According to Tibetans, thogchags regularly contain traces of gold and silver and other precious metals.
The rich colours and lustre of the metals supports such a belief. Meteoric metal is called nam&ag in Tibetan (which literally means "sky metal") and according to legend, was refined from meteorites. This claim is not easy to substantiate because the collection and smelting of meteorites belongs to an almost forgotten prehistoric tradition of producing metals. The scientific analysis of thogchags and the trace metals they contain may prove an invaluable tool for discerning their age and provenance. To date, no such systematic study has been undertaken.
The introduction of Buddhism in Tibet in the seventh century initiated the suppression of indigenous Bon culture. This suppression extended to all areas of Tibetan life obscuring, among other things, the identity and function of pre-Buddhist thogchags. As a result, few thogchags from the early period can be conclusively identified. A large variety of thogchags belong to the prehistoric period and include animals, anthropomorphs, geometric designs, ritual mirrors, tubular structures, forked rods, tiny vessels, rings and discs, as well as many others. Most were cast in simple moulds. Their often naturalistic appearance lends credence to the idea that they were self-formed.
What does and does not constitute a thogchag is a debatable subject among Tibetans. The strictest definition states that only objects originally produced as amulets and which were designed to stand alone can genuinely be called thogchags. Nevertheless, in practice many other metallic ob!ects have become subsumed under the label, including ancient utilitarian objects and Instruments of war. Even miniature tsha tsha moulds (used to make clay figurines), bronze mirrors (especially small ones), and early gau relic/shrine containers are now labelled thogchags. The early Bon and Buddh!st gaus (ninth century and earlier) are usually made of bronze and are two to four centlmetres across much smaller than the ones manufactured subsequently. While fragments of early gaus have been discovered on a fairly regular basis, it is very uncommon to find one intact.
A popular design in thogchags is that of the khyung or native eagle deity of Tibet which became assimilated into the Indian garuda with the introduction of Buddhism. The horned khyung is closely associated with the mountain spirits of the ancient northern Tibetan kingdom of Shangshung, as well as being an important didactic svmbol in both Bon and Buddhism. The khyung is the rival of the water spirits (lu) and is one of the few beings that can control them. Khyung thogchags range in age from those that are clearly pre-Buddhist to mediaeval specimens, and pseudo-thogchags commonly produced in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the syllable khra cast into them. The' popularity of the deity accounts for its very long life span. Khyungs range in size from one and a half to ten centimetres in height.
Another popular design is the ritual thunderbolt (dorje), the quintessential symbol of tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana). This design is especially popular with collectors and students of Buddhism as it is highly prized in the religion. Some dorjes were made fiat to wear against the body or to be sewn onto sacred objects. Others are round with each half being composed of four, five, six, eight, nine or more prongs. Another type of ritual thunderbolt is the double dorje (dorje gyatram) which is less common than the standard form. Dorje thogchags range in age from the early period of Buddhism in Tibet to the last couple of centuries, and in size from one to ten centimetres in length. Some dorjes were conceivably produced in India or Nepal and imported to Tibet.
Stupas form another common design and consist of either a single stupa or three
fused together representing the rigsum gonpo, the three most popular bodhisattvas. Buddhist stupas often have a sun and moon finial. In the Bon religion stupas are said to have been used long before the advent of Buddhism in Tibet. Bon stupas frequently have a finial comprising the horns of the khyung flanking a sword (charu chatri). Bon thogchag stupas are much less common than the Buddhist counterparts. Like the dorjes and khyungs, stupas vary greatly in size and style. A particularly evocative theme is that of a stupa surmounting a ram's head. From pre-Buddhist times livestock such as sheep and yaks have been essential to the Tibetan way of life, and have played an important role in Bon and other popular religious traditions. Another standard design is that of spiritual jewels (norbu), slgnl lng the basic tenets of the Bon and Buddhist doctrines. The vase (bumpa) is also well-represented and likewise, is both a Bon and Buddhist symbol. The vase is used to enshrine the energy of deities and figures in long-life rituals. Thogchag vases come in both two and three- dimensional forms. The conch shell.(dungkar)is both a Bon and Buddhist auspicious symbol representing the consummation of the means leading to enlightenment It is found in many forms and sizes. The Bon and Buddhist ritual dart (phurba), as well, assumes many styles in thogchags; from very abstract to specimens exhibiting the face of the Phurba deity.
Cruciform shapes, some of which G. Tucci calls Nestorian crosses, are also wellknown. It is plausible that during Tibet's Imperial Ascendancy (seventh to ninth centuries) she had contact with Central Asian Christians such as the Nestorians. If so, Tibetans imported the crosses from them or copied their designs. It was during the Imperial period that Tibet came into close contact with a variety of other Civilisations including the Arabs, Tang dynasty Chinese, Indian Buddhists, Persians, and the Hellenised satrapies of Bactria and Sogdiana. Such interactions would have been potentially rich sources of thogchags or the inspiration for their manufacture. Indeed, cere tain thogchags seem to originate outside of Tibet. An example of these is the so-called "Bactrian" lion motif.
Other animals are also represented in thogchag designs. Both standing and crouching lions, symbols of the Tibetan nation, as well as ram, goat and yak heads, the most important animal in Tibet. The earliest Tibetan historical reference to the sacred functions of animals is found in a Bon royal funerary text from Dunhuang, circa the eighth century C.E. Turtles, an important cosmological symbol; scorpions, a Bon and Buddhist protector; and the rare frog also find expression as thogchags. Other animals include antelopes, mounted horses, birds and dragons. It is theorised that certain early zoomorphic thogchags had a totemic function and belonged to specific clans.