Inscriptions on bronze drums are always written in Chinese characters, of which:
Note: Before introducing “inscribed drums” there should be no doubt about their authenticity. They possibly were graved at a later date than original casting, may be to try to make the drum older or younger than if was for any reason.
Heger I early drums at time show the presence of spacers creating from origin a number of holes or perforations on their tympan and mantle, possibly resembling a circle (like on the “Vienna”drum) or spread over the surface (like on the “Moulié” drum). Spacers, (as sprues, gates, runners) were part of any bronze casting process and the resulting holes had not been filled. May be a few ones resulted from attempts to repair a crack or as a mean to slightly change the drum’s tonality - not excluding other magical or symbolical unknown reasons.
Note: No valid theories could be deducted from the number or the localisation or the format of such holes. In case of many holes has been proposed the term of “chaplet(s) of spacers”.
(from F.Heger and A.J. Bernet Kempers)
60 to 80
4 to 8 cm
40 to 60
3 to 6 cm
30 to 50
less than 1 kg
Note: Heger II are much more heavy than others of comparable size, often more rough. The lightest items are possibly the oldest.
Metal composition: Probably much depending on ores’ availability (and prices), no true correlation could be made by type but copper, lead, tin, zinc, were the basic components anyway. Ores average estimates: copper from 60 to 85%; lead from 14 to 26%; tin from 5 to 15%; zinc, under 5%; with sometimes traces of gold and/or silver.
Two drums from apparently the same origin and type could have very different chemical components: maybe produced in different times; maybe produced by distinct artists; maybe adapted to various budgets. Although tempted, it is difficult to make a historical classification based on chemical criteria. For Đông Sơn Heger I drums only a vast enquiry was done in 1989 by Vietnamese Prof. Trinh Sinh on 555 samples: 35% were made of Cu Sn Pb; 25% of Cu Pb Sn; 20% of Pb Sn; 12% of only Cu; the rest with other alloys based on Cu. (no zinc - no phosphorus in Đông Sơn alloys)
New perspectives had recently emerged, sometimes at Universities levels, with the creation of specific orchestras including bronze drums for part or in totality, with DVD or CD outputs in China. On the web (cf “Bronze drums festivals” and Youtube) are several examples of which can be cited in U.S.A. the patronage of Northern Illinois University where Burmese specialist Professor (em) Richard M. Cooler was teaching. There, an orchestra set up by Dr Gregory Beyer gave in its first performance (3/12/2012), a quintet of Karen bronze drums, as part of the closing ceremony of International Burma Studies Conference.
Bronze drums could be played differently according to their types or usages:
Note: These “noise-makers”, part of a great musical family, were functioning in much the same way as bells or gongs do in any religions, either only to claim the attention, either to formulate a particular petition to the skies.
In the Burmese traditions, the musician placed his big toe in the lower set of lugs to stabilize the drum while striking the tympanum with a big mallet on one hand, the other one made available to perform more softly on the cylinder.
At times rivers basins and shorelines played a central role in the Bronze Drum odyssey when examined country by country from southern China to the tropical seas.
Himalaya’s rivers radiating to the East were keys for the Bronze Age. Of these, the northern main basins were respectively named Huanghe (Yellow river) and Yangzi (Long river) in the great plains of China, their tributaries being connected to the Yunnan/Guangxi Plateau; and the southern Mekong for (now) Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
In total a drum’s trip of about three months from (now) China to Southern Archipelagos via other basins of the Indochina peninsula according to the historical Chinese records.
Nowadays new asphalted roads and bridges are very rapidly “killing” the activities of the rivers which until recently were so important. Sadly, charters apart, no regular boat traffic exists anymore on the Mekong between China and Vietnam, contrasting so much with the verge of the present 21st century when the author personally could enjoy that trip of about three thousands kilometers in three weeks with ten different boats between Jinghong in Yunnan (China) down to the neighbourhood of Saigon (Vietnam).
By contrast, traffic continues year-round with cargo vessels along the eastern Red River between Yunnan and Hanoi, and along western Irrawaddy (Myanmar) or Chao Phraya (Thailand) water highways - all recently tested but also possibly deserted in the near future except if cruising fleets are taking up the baton.