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Title: Anthology of World Music: The Music of Tibetan Buddhism—Two short-horns (rkang-ling); Monks of the Entchi Monastery (Nyingmapa Sect), Gangtok, Sikkim, India. Label: Rounder Select. Format: CD. Catalogue#: CD 5129, Disc 1. Track: 5.

Contextual Associations

The rkang-gling is an end-blown lip-reed aerophone used in Tibetan Buddhist ritual. It is traditionally made from the femur of a human who has died a violent death. The second rkang-gling pictured on this page is made from the leg bone of a tiger. Usually used in pairs (audio #1) for Tibetan Buddhist rituals connected to fierce deities, rkang-gling punctuate chanted texts and herald the entry of dancers as part of the ritual. They are also used in combination with the thod-rnga drum as a ritual implement by monks while chanting and meditating upon Tantric Buddhist religious texts. The first detail image shows a close up of the mask-like image, possibly that of a demonic figure, that is etched into the decorative metal over-plate at the bell-end of the second rkang-gling. A red stone adorns the bell-end of the first one, and there is evidence that some sort of paint had once been applied to the plating at this end.


The bone is dried and the residue of its marrow is removed from one end to produce a channel that terminates in the bulbous protuberance (condyle) at its other end. A hole that intersects the bore is drilled through the sides of the condyle. The metal overlay at one end serves as the instrument's mouthpiece (see second detail image), while the other end of the bone is likewise covered with metal, except for the side holes that serve as the instrument’s bell.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The player holds the rkang-gling in one hand and places its mouthpiece opening against his tensed lips through which he directs an airstream, producing a single, high, piercing tone. Its playing in a ritual setting is timed with other participating instruments and chanting.


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

Bibliographic Citations

Helffer, Mireille. 1984. “Rkang-gling.” NGDMI v.3: 252.

Mai Jizeng. 2002. "The Traditional Music of Tibet." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 471-484.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: South Asia

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

Formation: Tibetan

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

423.121.12 aerophone--end-blown straight natural labrosone with mouthpiece: the tube is neither curved nor folded

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - cylindrical 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 open end 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


13 in. length (first instrument) 9.1 in. length (second instrument)

Primary Materials


Entry Author

Roger Vetter