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Four Talismans or Tokchas
circa 9th century
heights: 3.5cm - 5cm
These four well-worn tokchas comprise different rounded shapes and elements. Each has been worn, most probably as a pendant, to drive away evil.
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.
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.: 4421 SOLD
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