Contextual Associations

The dung is an end-blown lip-reed aerophone that is associated with Tibetan Buddhism. Small dung such as the ones pictured here are tied to monks' robes so that they can be blown at any time to frighten away malevolent spirits. Larger dung are played in pairs from the roofs of Buddhist monasteries as part of the daily soundscape of such institutions. Etched into the decorative metal overlay of one of the horns is the image of a deer (see detail photo) the symbolic significance of which is not known.


A hole is pierced in the tip of the conch shell and reinforced with decoratively etched metal plating to serve as the instrument’s mouthpiece. The natural opening in the side of the shell functions as the instrument’s bell. Further metal plating covers much of the shells exterior, leaving only a patch of the shell itself visible. A few semiprecious stones are set into the plating.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The player holds the dung in one hand and places its mouthpiece opening against his tensed lips through which he directs an airstream, producing a single, high, piercing tone.  This is a sound-producing instrument, not a musical one.


Although almost certainly an ancient instrument, no information was found on the history of the dung.

Bibliographic Citations

Helffer, Mireille. 1984. “Dung.” NGDMI v.1: 635-636.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: South Asia

Nation: China (Tibetan Autonomous Region), Nepal, India, Bhutan

Formation: Tibetan

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

423.111.2 aerophone--natural labrosone end-blown conch; with mouthpiece

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - conical with open distal end

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: lip reed (player’s lips) placed over hole in side of tube

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: none

Overblowing utilization: not used

Pitch production: single pitch - one pitch produced in single air cavity


4.3 in. length (each)

Primary Materials

shell - conch

Entry Author

Roger Vetter