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History of Wind Chimes

History of Wind Chimes
Since prehistoric times, several cultures – particularly those of South and East Asia, from Bali to Tibet and Japan – have applied wind chimes to scare away evil spirits and also to draw good ones.To this purpose, hundreds of elegantly designed, painted or cast chimes have been added by Buddhists to the eaves of holy buildings and temples. It was often assumed that the resultant noises, while often very deafening, encouraged inner harmony.

Japan and China were the first nations to introduce wind chimes as decorative elements into the home. But does it mean that these cultures created the wind chimes as we know them now? Let’s take a closer look at the background. 

The origins of wind chimes

1) The first chimes

Who created the first ever wind chime? It is hard to tell. Because this musical instrument and ornament is a product of many cultures and times. 

Almost all Asian ancient cultures claim that wind chimes are their invention. It is hard to tell who is right because this instrument was invented many centuries ago. By 1100 BC, the Chinese cast bells, making the wind bell they named feng-ling. Faith artifacts that could draw kind spirits and scare out bad ones were called wind chimes. In fact, the Buddhists worshipped wind bells and suspended them from the eaves of shrines, pagodas, temples and caves by the hundreds.

The past of chimes is quite versatile. Cultures and the uses on all the continents span their popularity growth. Such chimes have long been recognized as one of the world’s first musical instruments for their calming, meditative and even earthly tones. Wind chimes have acted as a means of influencing the mood of natural ecosystems for centuries because of their distinctive rhythm.

The wind chime will go back approximately 5000 years to track its lineage. The earliest proof of wind chimes discovered at South East Asian archeological sites dates them to around 3000 B.C. The first wind chimes, ancient buildings of bone, wood or bamboo, stone or stones, were believed to be used to fend off evil spirits.

There is evidence, however, that wind chimes were often used more practically. For example, the digs in Bali indicate that farmers used sound wind chimes and wind clappers to chase birds and other animals from their cultivated fields. By the year 2000 BC along the coasts of the Mediterranean, the wind chime was independently invented and was set in bronze by the ancient Egyptians.

When the Chinese began casting bells, it was not until about 1100 BC that the wind chime sought its more current, harmonic and creative evolution. The forefather of the wind chime, a clapper-less bell named yong-zhong, was made by highly trained metal workers and used as an accompaniment to religious ceremonies. As wind bells were called holy talismans believed to repel evil devils and ghosts and lure good spirits, they hang from the eaves of shrines, temples, pagodas and caves. In the secular world, this practice was adopted and wind chimes became popular talismans in the home as a way to protect against evil supernatural influences.

2) Since the 1800s till nowadays

In the 1800s, as Asian architecture, fashion and philosophy began to exercise a distinct impact in Europe and America, the usage of wind chimes in the home expanded from China to Japan and from there to the western world. The art of Feng Shui helped to spread the understanding of a soothing and balancing wind chimes effect throughout the household. An ancient method of optimizing the flow of life energy using arrangement, or Chi, Feng Shui also utilizes wind chimes as a way of forming an atmosphere and manipulating chi. Unique wind chime tones and materials may influence energy and modify the atmosphere and feeling of a living room.

While the wind chime has existed in many cultures since prehistoric times, in East and South Asia it obtained its most elegant and prolific creation, from Bali to Tibet and Japan, where it was sometimes elaborately painted, cast, or carved and hanging from the eaves of sacred structures. In fact, Buddhists used wind chimes and bells, adding them profusely to the eaves of temples, shrines, and pagodas by the hundreds or even thousands, creating an almost excessive auspicious sense of sound at breezy periods.

Later wind chimes became a decorative art in private residences as well as on religious buildings in China and Japan, and their widespread usage spread more broadly among the Western nations in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the realms of ancient and modern times are bridged, the knowledge of the East extends to the West, and excitement and suspense are encountered.

Interesting fact: The biggest wind chime ever constructed measures 42 feet and falls almost 50 feet from the ground, according to Guinness World Records. Jim Bolin developed this instrument in 2012 and is currently headquartered in Casey, Illinois (USA). Also, Casey is a host to the biggest pitchfork, mailbox, golf tee, clogs, and rocking chair in the country.

Healing effects of wind chimes

There is an ancient belief that wind chimes may produce tones with positive healing effects. Supposedly, in a calming way, these sounds may affect the muscles, calm the minds, and wake the spirits. To prevent body and internal blockages, the sound echo and vibration of chimes may reduce anxiety. Relaxing the mind expands the interaction of cognitive awareness and spirit. Therefore, wind chimes help affirm the mind/body/spirit bond, which offers us a sense of peace and well-being.

Wind chimes and Feng Shui

Feng Shui literally means wind and water. The most fundamental elements of life’s energy are these two elements. They symbolize the manifestation of the energy movement. This energy is known in Feng Shui as Chi. For a healthy, happy and lucky life, the positive flow of Chi is mostly desired. Negative Chi flow that moves too fast, too sluggish or is stagnant, can be destructive. Feng Shui provides treatments to improve conditions to bring a more favorable flow of this energy. For destroying negative Chi, the wind chime for Feng Shui is an excellent cure and an elegant way to enhance positive Chi.

Sound stimulation can nurture changes and emotions in behavior. The feeling of loneliness or isolation can be eased by positive sounds. Sadness, tension and rage can be blown away by gentle sounds. They are replaced by positive emotions like relaxation. 

Wind chimes allow us to recognize the flow of Chi through the sound that a chime makes. The delicate sound of chimes can greatly help create a positive flow of Chi energy. By masking or covering negative, harsh or dull sounds in the environment, such as the sound of traffic, they can also correct bad Chi flow. These situations can be corrected by traditional wind chimes and bring balance to your home and life.

About the design and manufacturing of traditional wind chimes

In every size and form, wind chimes come. The smallest chimes can be worn as earrings, and there are three pipes in the palm and another mini model fits in. The largest chime has 58-in-long tubes and resonates like the bells in the clock tower of Big Ben. Some are mounted on magnets or stakes of plants, and most talismans are hung from objects or ornamental shapes.

Interesting fact: Among several designers and producers today, the focus is on the nature of the sound created by the chimes. In 1979, when the business started manufacturing chimes with characteristic sounds and scales musically tuned by computer, Woodstock Percussion, Inc. began a design trend in wind chimes. To identify historical scales on which to construct wind chime tunes, they looked to other cultures and built chimes with the sound and tone of the Bali chimes in Indonesia or the Gregorian chanting mode.

Durability is also a problem because most chimes are intended for outdoor display, so they not only have to withstand the wind, but also the sun, extreme temperatures and precipitation.

A conventional, percussion wind chime is made of aluminum tubes, any of a variety of wood types and shapes as the top. Typically, a braided nylon string is used to attach the tubes to their top and metal clamps/nails are added to clip the strings to the wooden top.

Being also called a wind bell, a traditional wind chime design usually comes in basic configurations: 

  • A combination of similar items which include seashells, glass pieces, metal tubes, bamboo pieces or pottery elements combined by the central supporting piece. The wind moves this construction;
  • A combination of the same pieces with a clapper suspended from the support cord. This pendant chimes (along with the pieces) when the breeze blows against a wind catcher located at the clapper’s end;
  • It may look like a doorbell with a long suspension/clapper attached to a wind catcher. It produces the sounds when the wind strikes this suspension against the bell’s body;

Aluminum tubes are mostly used in modern designs of wind chimes. Depending on the width of the tube selected to accommodate the total scale of the design, the tubes are typically 8-12 ft long. By using a lathe or a milling machine, the tubes are accurately cut to original or functional lengths. In a standard wind chime, usually a few tubes are picked (from 4 to 8 pieces).

Every tube is then tuned by a machine in a precision instrument; the computer was configured to recognize the material and match the sound when the tube is hit to exact pitches for the chord progression that is again part of the pattern selected. The tubes are trimmed slightly if appropriate to change the tone. Holes are then honed near the tops of the cut pipes so that they can be suspended – there are no sharp edges.

During the stage of assembly, a wind chime is put together by hand. Through the pipes and the top, the braided nylon cord is picked. The top is linked to the hanger, and the assembly of the center string is added. The clapper is attached at the lower end of the center string; some brands call the clapper a wind catcher or feather. The completed wind chime is tied to a hanging tag.

Final thoughts

Wind chimes have played a long and varied function in history, from the usage of pagodas to the guard against bad spirits. A chime may also add a marvelous accent for every home or garden in its current incarnation. The calming tones echo the breeze music and offer an aura of a calm, meditative feeling; establishing a position of peace and balance.