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Animal-shaped Pendant Talisman or Tokcha
Tibet and North Western China
4th century BC

length: 8.5cm, height: 4.5cm, weight: 70g

This  well-worn pendant cast in thick bronze in the form of a hoofed animal dates to around 4th century BC to Norther-Western China or Mongolia. Later, it is
likley to have been traded to Tibet where it was worn as a
tokcha or a magical talismanic device.

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 example here.

It is likely that many
tokchas originally were belt fittings 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
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 example here is in a stable and wearable condition. As mentioned, it has an exceptional patina and obvious antiquity. It was 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.
Bunker, E.C., C.B. Chatwin & A.R. Farkas,
'Animal Style' Art from East to West, The Asia Society, 1970.
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.
So, J.F., & E.C. Bunker,
Traders and Raiders on China's Northern Frontier, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/University of Washington Press, 1995.

Provenance: private collection, UK.

Inventory no.: 4426 SOLD

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