Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tanii beads-4 : page or Chinese melon beads

Page beads have a very distinctive shape, commonly called "melon-shape" (though pumpkin would be more accurate). They are glass paste beads of various hues, the most common being shades of blue, green and yellow. Quite common in Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, they originate from further North in China. From the Tang dynasty onwards, China has acquired a worldwide reputation and a leading influence on the art of glass bead making. Though the Chinese did not flood the trading markets with other countries with these beads, glass melon-shaped beads have been found in various cultures as far as New Guinea where, till recently, they were used as trade currency. In making glass the Chinese used lead-barium formula which makes it more brillant, easier to cut and easier to remelt. It also makes much softer and heavier beads than contemporary soda-lime glass produced in Europe.

The Taniis use
beads for making various necklaces, interspersed with other beads or forming separate rows. A single strand of Chinese melon-shaped glass paste beads of light-blue hues is known as sampyu page and is one of their favourite necklaces.

Tanii language differentiates at least 8 types, according to the hue, size and appearance :
  • santer page : light blue/turquoise, opaque, big.
  • sampyu page : light blue/turquoise/jade green, opaque, small
  • saro page : dark or light blue, slightly translucent/medium size
  • sankhe page : blue or dark blue, slightly translucent, small
  • horpu page : crystal-like, translucent, medium size
  • bilun page : terracota, brownish yellow, slightly translucent, medium size
  • pike page : amber, brownish, slightly translucent, medium size
  • halan page : light blue, opaque, small

santer page...............................................................................................sampyu page

saro page (left and right)

sankhe page

horpu page

bilun page

pike page

halan page

A strand of old Chinese melon-shaped glass paste beads, of amber hues, from Tibet (for comparison)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tanii beads 3 : Turquoise-blue glass beads

The Taniis use turquoise-blue round, chunky or cylindrical beads to make large necklaces worn by women known as santer tasan and sampyu tasan. Though imported from Tibet and indeed reminiscent of the true turquoise stones much prized by the Tibetans, they are in fact Chinese glass beads commonly known as "Padre" beads, whose colour is similar to those of turquoises (it can be also turquoise coloured tile beads in some cases). They are very popular among the Tibetans as among most indigenous communities of Arunachal Pradesh.

  • sambyu : medium size light blue beads (top)
  • santer : larger type of light blue beads (bottom)

  • santer page is a blue melon-shaped glass bead of the larger type (santer). On this picture displaying a few old beads the original shape has been abrased and only notches remain visible.

The smallest type of turquoise-blue glass bead is called sampyu. It comprises :
  • - alan : roundish, chunky beads
  • - sampyu peron or sampyu perun : literally "bean sampyu", cylindrical in shape

alan and sampyu perun interspersed on sampyu tasan

  • - sampyu page : melon-shaped bead

An old Tibetan necklace made of melon-shaped turquoise-blue glass beads (for comparison)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tanii beads-2 : lebu or Carnelian beads

Carnelian and agate beads are used by Taniis to make only one type of necklace, which is also their longest necklace. It is known as lebu tasan and consists mostly of a single row of such beads. Its very typical colour, reddish orange shades, is due to iron oxide contained in the stones which may have bandings. Some of them can also be translucent or opaque. The carnelian and agate beads worn by the Taniis are not always faceted, but those who are are mostly hexagonal. Rectangular beads seem to be rare.

Several shapes and apparences are distinguished :
  • lebu : long hexagonal carnelian or agate bead which gives its name to the necklace. The biggest pair, or the biggest ones, are positioned at the bottom part.
  • gara or garya : short cylindrical non-faceted carnelian or agate bead. Mostly used as spacers between lebu beads.
  • yasi lebu : translucent carnelian or agate bead. Possibly also crystal in some cases.
  • rinyo lebu : diamond shape bead, usually positioned towards the middle section of the row.



rinyo lebu

yasi lebu