Thokcha

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"Thunderbolt iron" redirects here. For other uses, see Meteoric iron.

Thokcha (Tibetan: ཐོག་ལྕགསWylie: thog lcags;[1] also alternatively Tibetan: གནམ་ལྕགསWylie: gnam lcags[2]) "sky-iron" are tektites and meteorites which are often high in iron content, refer iron meteorite.[3] The usage of meteoric iron is common in the history of ferrous metallurgy. Historically, thokchas were held in esteem for sacred metallurgical fabrication of weapons, musical instruments and sacred tools, e.g. phurba. Their inclusion as an auspicious addition in the metallurgical fabrication of sacred objects cast of Panchaloha is documented. The term has also come to denote ancient metal objects which serve as amulets made from thokcha. They are traditionally held to be endowed with magic and protective power and in this respect are comparable to Tibetan Dzi beads.

Beer (1999: p. 234) holds that:

"Meteoric iron or 'sky-iron' (Tib. gnam lcags) is the supreme substance for forging the physical representation of the vajra or other iron weapons, since it has already been tempered by the celestial gods in its passage across the heavens. The indivisibility of form and emptiness is a perfect metaphor for the image of a meteorite or 'stone fallen from the sky', manifesting out of the voidness of space as a shooting star or fireball, and depositing a chunk of fused 'sky iron' on the earth below. Many vajras held by deities as weapons are described as being forged from meteorite iron, and Tibet, with its high altitude, thin atmosphere and desolate landscape, received an abundance of meteorite fragments. Tibetan vajras were often cast from meteorite iron, and as an act of sympathetic magic a piece of the meteoric iron was often returned to its original site."[4]

Tibetan thokcha in the shape of a small arch. It may originally have been a tool serving for opening knots in leather straps which secured pack animal loads.[5]
Tibetan thokcha
Tibetan thokcha, showing crouching lion in centre

Age[edit]

One can roughly divide the thokchas into two groups, the first comprising objects of pre-Buddhist period (from about 1000 BC until 900 AD), the second belonging to the Buddhist period (after 7th century AD), the two periods slightly overlapping. Some of the early thokchas may be related to the Tibetan Zhang zhung culture.

Types of thokchas[edit]

Thokchas are metal objects which can have a length of about 2–15 centimetres (0.79–5.91 in). Originally they can have had a practical use such as having been part of horse harnesses, or having served as buckles, fibulae or arrow heads. They can have served as adornment for clothes or objects of daily use like lighters and purses. Thokchas can represent mythological and real animals or deities from Tibet’s Bön or Buddhist religion. Many are of a more abstract form and the meaning of these pieces remains uncertain.

Popular belief[edit]

The word thokcha is composed of two words, thog meaning above, first or thunderbolt and lcags meaning iron or metal. The meaning of thokcha can thus be given as “first or original iron” or “thunderbolt iron”. The popular belief is that thokchas can be formed naturally or magically when a thunderbolt strikes the earth. According to other beliefs tokchas are composed of meteoritical metal and found by chance on or under the ground by a lucky person. However, most of the thokchas were intentionally designed as amulets and are made of a copper alloy.[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bellezza, John Vincent (March, 1999). Thogchags: The Ancient Amulets of Tibet. Source: [1] (accessed: Wednesday April 14, 2010)
  2. ^ Dharma Dictionary (December, 2005). 'gnam lcags'. Source: [2] (accessed: Thursday April 15, 2010)
  3. ^ Bellezza, John Vincent (2005, 2008). Spirit-mediums, sacred mountains, and related Bon textual traditions in upper Tibet: calling down the gods. Volume 8 of Brill's Tibetan studies library. Brill. NB: 2005 original from University of Michigan, digitized October 2, 2008. ISBN 90-04-14388-2, ISBN 978-90-04-14388-3
  4. ^ Beer, Robert (1999). The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs (Hardcover). Shambhala. ISBN 1-57062-416-X, ISBN 978-1-57062-416-2. Source: [3] (accessed: Thursday April 15, 2010), p.234
  5. ^ Weihreter, Hans: thog-lcags. Geheimnisvolle Amulette Tibets. PDF-Dokument, Edition Kyung, Augsburg, 2002
  6. ^ Bellezza, John:http://www.asianart.com/articles/thogchags/index.html

References[edit]

  • Anninos, Toni: Tokches – Images of Change in Early Buddhist Tibet. In: Orientations, October 1998, p. 93sqq.
  • Anninos, Toni: The Ancient Amuletts of Tibet - Thokcha. The Max Maxwell Collection, San Francisco, 2000.
  • Bellezza, John Vincent: "thog lcags" The Tibet Journal, vol. 19 (1), Dharamsala, 1994, p. 92-97.
  • Bellezza, John Vincent: "Thogchags:Talismans of Tibet". Arts of Asia, vol. 28, no. 3, May–June, 1998, p. 44-64.
  • John, Gudrun: Tibetische Amulette aus Himmelseisen - Das Geheimnis der Toktschaks. VML-Verlag, Raden/Westf., 2006
  • Lin, Tung-Kuang, Antique Tibetan Thogchags and Seals. The Art of Tibet, Taipei, 2003.
  • Weihreter, Hans: thog-lcags. Geheimnisvolle Amulette Tibets. PDF-Dokument, Edition Kyung, Augsburg, 2002.

External links[edit]