ANATOMY OF THE DONGSON BRONZE DRUMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Double click on Title to open file if needed.
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AN OVERVIEW  OF

THE CLASSIFICATION AND

ANATOMY OF THE NÒNG-NỌC

(CIRCLE-ROD) SOUTHEAST ASIAN

BRONZE DRUMS (1)

Nguyễn Xuân Quang

Abstracts

The anatomy of the bronze drums reveals that the morphology and structure of the bronze drums reflect the entire spectrum of the cosmogony (cosmogeny). In general, the bronze drums are purposely made with open bottoms and have n nòng nọc yin-yang characters. The different morphology of the drums portrays the different aspects of cosmogony. My classification is based on the doctrine of cosmogony.

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Dr A.B. Meyer and W. Foy, the two first authors in the book Bronzepauken aus Sušdostasien (The Bronze Drums of the Southeast Asia, Dresden, 1897) have divided the Southeast Asian bronze drums into six groups based on the studying of 52 bronze drums. In 1902, the Austrian scholar F. Heger expressed his disagreement with Meyer and Foy’s classification, and published his drum typology in his book, Alte Metalltrommeln aus Sudost Asien. Based on the meticulous work on the 165 bronze drums, he has classified the bronze drums into four main groups: H.I, H.II, H.III, H.IV and three intermediate groups.

A. THE NGUYỄN XUÂN QUANG’S CLASSIFICATION BASED ON THE MORPHOLOGY OF THE BRONZE DRUMS.

F. Heger’s typology of the bronze drums is merely descriptive; therefore I classify the bronze drums based on the doctrine of cosmogony. Based on their morphology, or gross anatomy, the bronze drums of  Southeast Asia are classified as follows:

1.  Nguyễn Xuân Quang type I (NXQ.I): egg-shaped drums or cosmic drum.

The drums of this type have the shape of a sphere, O shape or an egg shape. I call them cosmic drums. The O-shaped drums symbolize the Cosmic Pouch (Nothingness, Hư Vô, Universe, Vũ Trụ,  or Creation, Tạo Hóa). The egg-shaped drums (representing yin-yang, the Great Ultimate Thái Cực), symbolize the yin-yang Cosmic Pouch or Cosmic Egg. The egg-shaped drums are usually called barrel drums. I called them creator drums. The cosmic bronze drums can be the symbol of the Macrocosm or Upper World or Universe.

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A regular barrel-shaped bronze drum with two membranes (a Dongsonian  bottomless barrel drum has only one membrane).

In front of a yin sacred house or cosmos house on the Ngoc Lu I drum (see chapter The Houses in Nguyễn Xuân Quangs The Decipherment of the South East Asian Bronze Drums), there is a person holding a round object which is considered by many scholars to be a drum.

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A yin cosmic drum on the Ngoc Lu I drum.

In the book Dong Son Bronze Drums Found in Viet Nam, Nguyen Van Huyen and Hoang Vinh have mentioned that the Caœnh Thịnh drum or Taýy Sơn drum (inventory number D.6214-22), worshipped at the Buddhist temple Cổ Lễ and Buddhist temple Keo, at Hành Thiện, Nam Hà province and Nguyễn’s dynasty drum displayed at Hùng king’s museum at Vĩnh Phú city have the shape of the skinned barrel drums, but without bottoms (similar to the other types of the bronze drums). Unfortunately, no pictures or drawings of this type of bronze drums are available.

2. Nguyễn Xuân Quang type II (NXQ. II): Tubular or Cylindrical drums or Fire-drums or Kien drums (Trống Kiền hay Càn).


On the yang side, the bronze drums of this type have the shape of a tube or a cylinder with open bottom and straight sides portraying male principle and/or fire element or Kien. The yang fire-drums have no significant shoulders and bases.

3. Nguyễn Xuân Quang Type III (NXQ. III): Air Parasol-Shaped Drums or Yang Wind Drums or Tui Drums (Trống Đoài).

The drums of this type have the shape of parasols which are symbols of air, wind and sky.  The wind drums have insignificant bases.

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Karen drum (NXQ. type III, Heger III).
(A. J. B Kempers, plate 19.04)

Heger called these drums Shan drums, because they are mainly cast by the Shan and Karen people living in east Burma. Note that Shan people, speaking a Tai-Kadai language, belong to the yin side  or cool sun stem of the tai yang sun Hồng Bàng family. The yang side of the yin branch is IO (rod yang on circle yin), young yin, air or wind clan. The Shan is a young yin, air or wind clan. This is the reason why the Shan people make a lots of yang wind parasol-shaped drums.
Under the projecting part of the roof, on the right side of a yin sun house on the Ngoc Lu I drum, there is a drum or drum-like object placed in a horizontal position. This parasol-shaped drum is a yang wind Tui drum (see chapter The Houses).

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Stylized parasol-shaped drum on the Ngoc Lu I drum.

Under the floor of the Triple World dais of the boat 2 on the Ngoc Lu I drum, there is a parasol-shaped drum or drum-like object representing a tai yang Tui drum of the water people.

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Parasol-shaped drum on the Ngoc Lu I drum.

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Lương Sơn (Kim Bôi) drum, NXQ. type III, (Heger III).
(J. Cuisinier, planche XXXI).

Figure 4 in planche XXXI, in Les Mường, by J. Cuisinier, shows a gigantic bronze drum. Three parts of the drum are clearly divided, but the insignificant base and the waist form a cylinder. The drum has the shape of a parasol.
The drums of Heger type III can be considered as yang wind drums or NXQ type III.


4 . Nguyễn Xuaýn Quang Type IV (NXQ IV): “Âu” Shaped Drums or Male Water Chen Drums (Trống Chấn).

The drums of this type have the shape of an “âu” container or upside down cauldrons (see Signs and Symbols) and are yang water Chen drums. The drums are divided into only two parts. The drums of this type having no waist or axis and look very short.

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A South China drum or an “âu” container–shaped drum.
NXQ IV or H.IV.
(A. J. B. Kempers, plate 20.02).

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Âu (C. Higham, figure 4.23, f).

Therefore they are termed “squat” drums. This type of drum represents male water Chen. The drums of Heger type IV belong here. The male water drums are the symbols of the male Water clans who worshipped the water sun of the yin side. Heger called these drums South China drums, because they are mainly found in south China, and their decorations have Chinese motifs such as dragons, fish and on some drums even there are the Chinese characters. It is easy to understand since south China is the old domain of the yin branch of the tai yang sun Hồng Bàng family (Red Family or Sun Family in the Vietnamese tradition). They belong to the Sun Tốn (Cosmos, yang wind), Chen (Water Sun) or Âu / Giao dragon stem.
Under the projecting part of the roof, on the right side of a yang house on the Song Da drum, there is a drum or a drum-like object. On the yang side, this “aýu”-shaped object is a Chen drum (Nguyễn Xuaýn Quang type IV).

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A yang water Chen drum at a yang sun house on the Song Da drum.

The drums of Heger type IV can be considered as yang water drums or NXQ type IV.


5. Nguyễn Xuaýn Quang type V (NXQ. V): Pillar-shaped Drums or Earth-drums or Young Yang or Li Drums (Trống Li).

The drums of this type have the shape of pillars or supporting posts with wide bases that looks like flat-cratered volcanoes. They symbolize Fire Mountain, yang earth, earthy World Mountain, the earth-axis Mountain, sky supporting post, or World axis.

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Figure a.                                                             Figure b.

Tan Long, Hoa Binh province drum (fig.a)

and South  China drum  fig. b
(A. J. B. Kempers, plate 18.02).
(NXQ.V, Heger II).

The shape of the drums of this type is rather simple, with less distinctive divisions but their three parts are still visible. The drums have insignificant cylindrical shoulders (short, flat), the surface usually spreading out beyond the mantle like a supporting disc of the sky supporting post. However they have a characteristic higher prominent waist (or axis).
Under the projecting part of the roof, on the left side of a yang sun house on the Ngoc Lu I drum, there is a drum or drum-like object in the shape of a supporting pillar (see chapter The Houses).
This pillar-shaped drum is a young yang Li drum.

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A pillar-shaped drum on the Ngoc Lu I drum (from Nguyen Van Huyen, p. 169), the wide base and the straight upper part portray a pillar or a supporting post.

On the Co Loa I drum, under the projecting part of the roof of a sun house, at the lower right corner, there is a horizontally laid drum with the tympanum facing to the right. This drum portrays tai yang Li (see chapter Signs and Symbols). The pillar-like shape confirms that this drum is a Li drum.

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A pillar-shaped drum at a yang sun house on the Co LoaI drum (from Pham Huy Thong, p.8).

Under the projecting part of the roof, on the right side of a yang sun house on the Kai Hua drum, there is a drum or drum-like object in the shape of a supporting pillar (see chapter The Houses). This pillar-shaped drum is a tai yang Li drum.

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A pillar-shaped drum on the Kai Hua drum.

The drums of Heger type II can be considered as earth drums or NXQ type V.


6. Nguyễn Xuân Quang Type VI (NXQ.VI): Mushroom-shaped Drums or Cosmic Mushroom drums (Trống Nấm Vũ Trụ).

Cosmic Mushroom Drums or Triple World Drums convey the entire spectrum of the cosmogony. The drums of this type have the shape of a flat-topped Mushroom, which is the symbol of the Cosmic Mushroom (a kind of Cosmic Tree), the Triple World Mushroom and the Mushroom of Life. These drums have three very clear-cut parts: broad shoulders, slim axis and slanting bases.

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Ngọc Lũ I bronze drum Nguyễn Xuân Quang VI (Heger I).

The drums on the platform next to the yang sun house on the Hoang Ha drum have three distinctive parts and are considered cosmic mushroom drums.

The drums of Heger type I belong to this type.

The tympanum usually does not spread out beyond the mantle. The tympanum and the shoulder form the flat-topped dome of a Mushroom, symbolizing the Upper and Middle Worlds. The axis of the drum, similar to the stem of a mushroom, represents the World Axis and/or the World Mountain. The base of the drum, corresponding to the root of the mushroom, symbolizes the Under World. This explains why the NXQ.VI cosmic mushroom drums, such as Ngoc Lu I and its kin (Hoang Ha, Song Da drums, etc) are the finest, most artistic of all specimens.
This type of bronze drum is termed “Dong Son drums” by Vietnamese scholars. These drums are considered to be representative of the Dong Son culture (Pham Huy Thong, p. 262). They were carved on the Ngoc Lu I, Kai Hoa, Hoang Ha and Song Da drums.
The Cosmic Mushroom is born from the Cosmic Egg, therefore, from an anatomical point of view, the morphological outline of the Cosmic Mushroom bronze drum NXQ.VI must have the shape of an egg (which represents the NXQ. type I, cosmic drum).

B. Dissection of a Cosmic Mushroom Drum NXQ.VI.

The four elements  Fire, Wind, Water, Earth interact to give birth to the entire universe, life and all living things (Cosmic Tree or Tree of Life).  Thus, the four types of drums representing the four elements {NXQ.II (Fire), NXQ.III (Wind) NXQ.IV (Water) and NXQ.V (Earth),] can be put together to form the Cosmic Mushroom drum NXQ.VI. Conversely, the Cosmic Mushroom drums NXQ.VI can be dissected into the NXQ.II, III, IV and V types.

C. The Gross Anatomy and the Structure of a Cosmic Mushroom Drum.

The meaning and anatomy of the Cosmic Mushroom-shaped drums NXQ VI express the doctrine of cosmogony, so their “blue print” of the structure must be followed the doctrine of cosmogony represented by the Cosmic Tree.

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The Anatomy of a Cosmic-mushroom shaped Bronze Drum.

a. The Macrocosm or Upper World.
The central zone of the tympanum represents the Macrocosm or Upper World, which also portrays the entire spectrum of cosmogony.
b. The Microcosm or Middle World or Human Living Being World.
The Middle Worlds on the bronze drums are represented by the remaining parts of the tympanums (the area is unoccupied by the Upper World) and the shoulders (upper parts of the mantles or bulging parts) of the drums.
c. The Under World.
The Under World or Nether World is represented by the base of the bronze drum.
d. The World Axis or axis mundi.
The World Axis is represented by the axis (middle part of the mantle or waist) of the drum.

D. Yin and Yang faces of the Bronze Drums

The bronze drums are purposely made with open bottoms. When placed in the beating position (the tympanums are facing upwards), the bronze drums symbolize male, yang. When placed in the upside down positions, they become mortars or cauldrons, or containers or gongs, symbols of female, yin.

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Therefore, the bronze drums  with open bottoms are yang-yin drums. The shape of the drums which is the same shape as the containers when in upside down positions, carries the symbolic meaning of cosmogony.

Conclusion

In summary, the anatomy of the bronze drums reveals that the morphology and structure of the bronze drums reflect the entire spectrum of the cosmogony. The form and structure of the bronze drums are accorded with the meaning of the drums or the doctrine of cosmogony. In general, the bronze drums are purposely made with open bottoms and have yin-yang characters.
The different morphology of the drums portrays the different aspects of cosmogony. In the view of religion, bronze drums are the symbols or religious icons of cosmogony, and in the patriarch society, they are symbols of sun worship or solar cult. Culturally, the bronze drums recorded the bronze nòng nọc I Ching. In the view of ethnology, bronze drums are symbols of the clans, nationalities, federals, the Empire of the sun or the Sun family. In comparison to Vietnamese ancient history and traditions, they are the symbols of Vietnamese Red Family or Sun Family Hồng Bàng (see Giải Đọc Trống Đồng Nòng Nọc, Âm Dương Đông Nam Á Decipherment of The Nong Noc Ying Yang Southeast Asian Bronze Drums).

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Foot Note

(1)
.see more details in the chapter  Cơ Thể Học Trồng Đồng Nòng Nọc Âm Dương Đông Nam Á  (The Anatomy of the Nòng Nọc Ying Yang Southeast Asian Bronze Drums) in  Giải Đọc Trống Đồng Nòng Nọc, Âm Dương Đông Nam Á (The Decipherment of the Nòng Nọc Ying Yang Southeast Asian Bronze Drums) (published by Hừng Việt 2008 written in Vietnamese by Nguyễn Xuân Quang).
.Vietnamese term nòng nọc (circle-rod), in a respect, means ying yang represent ying yang concept with circle O represents yin (female) and rod I represents yang (male).

4 comments

  1. Hi Dr. Nguyen Xuan Quang,

    I saw your program on VNA TV called SO TAY TRUYEN HINH on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 4 P.M. and I am interested in the symbols on the bronze drums. Also, I have been studying ancient symbols that I call the “Universal Language” for many years. Finally, I rediscovered the miracle evidence leading humans to oneness. I would like to learn more about the symbols on the drums. Please contact me. Thanks. Hope to hear from you soon.

    Sincerely,
    Jan Parratt-Stolarz (Mai)

    1. Quang Nguyen · · Reply

      Dear Jan,
      Thanks for your interest in my program on TV. I did study the Southeast Asian Bronze Drums for more than 30 years. Luckily I discovered the Nòng Nọc Circle-Rod Writing which I think is the oldest writing of human kind.
      The chalice (V) and blade (Λ) symbols that Dan Brown mentioned in The Da Vinci Code and the dotted circle (סּ) that he mentioned in The Lost Symbols are three words in the Nòng Nọc Cirle-Rod writing.
      This writing was used on the Dongson bronze drums. The Dongson bronze drums are a bronze dictionary of Nòng Nọc Circle-Rod Writing.
      Due to this discovery, I was able to decipher the Southeast Asian bronze drums. Currently I am talking about The Decipherment of The Dongson Drums on my TV program Bản Sắc Đại Tộc Việt (The ID of Great Family Việt), channel VNA-TV 57.3 on digital TV programs at 7:30 PM on Friday every week.
      I am looking for someone or organization that maybe interested in translating my discovery into English for wider distribution.
      If you have any particular questions about the symbols on the Dongson bronze drums, you can contact me at bacsinguyenxuanquang.wordpress.com or ngxuanquang@aol.com.
      I had published two books about the decipherment of the Southeast Asian Bronze Drums (in Vietnamese). You can get information on the purchase of these books in my blog bacsinguyenxuanquang.wordpress.com under Categories Các Tác Phẩm của NXQ.
      Thank you for your interest.
      Nguyễn Xuân Quang

  2. Grusenmeyer Karim · · Reply

    Dear Sir,

    I have read your abstract of the “anatomy of the Dongson bronze drums”. I read that your have published writings but unfortunately I don’t read Vietnamese nor have I seen your publications.

    May I inquire about the chronology which you propose?

    Your statements are as follows:
    The Nguyễn Xuân Quang Type VI conforms with Heger I
    You state that “Ngoc Lu I and its kin (Hoang Ha, Song Da drums, etc) are the finest, most artistic and ancient of all specimens.”
    I suppose that you agree that e.g. the Ngoc Lu should be dated within the 6th to the 4th century BC.

    You also state:
    The Nguyễn Xuân Quang Type III conforms with Heger III
    The Nguyễn Xuân Quang Type IV conforms with Heger IV
    The NXQ V conforms with Heger II
    To me it seems that the NXQ III-V postdate the beginning of our era, ca the year 0.

    How is it possible then that representations of the younger NSQIII-V types could be found on e.g. the Ngoc Lu or the Co Lao drum (= your NXQ VI drums), which should be dated to about the 6-4th Cent. BC?
    Do you imply that the types NSQIII-V existed along the Mushroom-shaped NXQ VI type? Would they have been made in material other then bronze?

    Thank you for your reply,

    Karim Grusenmeyer, Mr.
    (Belgium)

    1. Quang Nguyen · · Reply

      Dear Karim,

      Thanks for your inqiry.

      1. I did publish 2 volumes (out of 4) titled Decipherment of The Nòng Nọc (Cirle-Rod,Yin Yang) South East Asian Bronze Drums (however in Vietnamese).
      Vollume 3 and 4 were published in bacsinguyenxuanquang.wordpress.com in Vietnamese under the category: Trống Đồng Đại Tộc Đông Sơn (Bronze Drums of the Dongson Family)

      I hope in the near future, someone or some organization will translate them into English.

      2. I agree with you that the Ngọc Lũ I drum should be dated between the 6th and the 4th century BC.

      I did state that “Ngoc Lu I and its kins (Hoang Ha, Song Da drums, etc) are the finest, most artistic and ancient of all specimens. So far, the Ngọc Lũ I drum is really the finest, most artistic of all specimens in the world and is considered at present time the most ancient of all specimens found in Việt Nam but not in the world.
      Thanks for pointing out this detail. I will delete the world “ancient” in the text today to avoid any misunderstanding.

      3. Yes. I implied that the types NXQ III-V existed along the Mushroom-shaped NXQ VI type. They were made in bronze.
      Under the ethnological view, the NXQ VI Ngọc Lũ I drum is the symbol of the race ” People of the Universe” among whom the Sun People is dominant. Compared to ancient Vietnamese history, the Ngọc Lũ I drum is the symbol of the Federation Văn Lang of the Vietnamese, People of the Sun. This federation was formed from different states. Each type of drums (type II to V) represented each state of this federation.

      Thank you for your interest in this subject.

      Nguyễn Xuân Quang

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