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Three Talismans or Tokchas
Tibet
circa 6th-9th century

heights: 4cm-5.5cm

These three well-worn tokchas comprise:

(1) a yak head, a primitive symbol of the drogpas, a tribe of nomadic herdsmen. It dates to the pre-Buddhist period (ie around the 6th century).

(2) a Tsepu, or protector face, which would have formed part of a buckle used to bind scriptures. It dates to 8th-9th century.

(3) a roundel with two lions and a central figure. This dates to around the 8th-9th century.

Tokchas (also spelt as thokcha, tokche, thogchak, thog-lcag, or thogchag) are small 'found' ancient, sacred objects that went on to serve as votive talismans,
and which were valued for their magical properties.  Usually they are of bronze or copper alloy.  Many are believed to also contain some meteoric metal.
Tibetans highly prized them and would wear them to protect them and to absorb evil. Usually they were hung from the neck or attached to clothing, but also
were  sewn onto amulet pouches or attached to religious articles. They were also used by Tibetan sharmans - healers, spirit-mediums and magicians - as part
of their 'tools' of trade.

Particularly effective or powerful
tokchas would be sold on or  passed down through the generations. Accordingly, genuine and powerful tokchas should show
a great deal of wear, as in the case of the examples here.

It is likely that many
tokchas originally were belt fittings (as is likely here) or ornaments either from Tibet or from the Eurasian Steppes and Central Asia or
Persia, and were traded into Tibet along Silk Road trading routes. Others were purpose-made as talismans, which explains why some genuine
tokchas can be
very similar. The traditional belief however, was that
tokchas were not made by humans and even that they had simply fallen from the sky. The animal motifs
employed in many
tokchas suggest a linkage to Tibet's pre-Buddhist Bon past. (Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the early 7th century.)

Four related
tokchas comprised lot 3056, in Bonham's New York sale, 'Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asia Art', March 13, 2017. See those here. And see
another example
here.

The examples here are in a stable and wearable condition. As mentioned, each has an exceptional patina and obvious antiquity. They were acquired from the
estate of a private English collector who built up a fine collection of
tokchas over his lifetime.

References:
Bashkanov, M., M. Bashkanov, P. Petrov, & N. Serikoff,
Arts from the Land of Timur: An Exhibition from a Scottish Private Collection, Sogdiana Books, 2012.
Heller, A.,
Early Himalayan Art, Ashmolean Museum, 2008.
Reynolds, V.
et al, From the Sacred Realm: Treasures of Tibetan Art from the Newark Museum, Prestel, 1999.

Provenance: private collection, UK.

Inventory no.: 4419 SOLD

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