People would widely view wind chimes as an entirely aesthetic decorative object, predominantly displayed in gardens and patios. Wind Chimes are, however part of a rather rich tapestry of history, going back at almost five thousand years, showing it’s predominance in many ancient cultures. Taking advantage of natural wind flow, they are widely regarded as one of the first musical instruments, and are still used in musical pieces to this day. In this article I will attempt to outline the cultural heritage of these popular household additions.
When considering where the first chime emerged, they were used under the superstition of evil spirits, with wind chimes being able to ward away the spirits. Archaeological evidence has shown early chimes in South East Asia, and carbon dating techniques have been used to estimate their age to somewhere as far back as 3000 BC, which speaks as a testament to just how important these items are to our human heritage. It has also been theorized that farmers would use chimes in lieu of scarecrows to keep birds away from their crops.
The idea of chimes working as a ward against evil spirits and in unison attract positive spirits has been prevalent throughout east-Asian history. In the year 1100 BC, the Chinese were documented making a wind bell named the feng-ling, hung and used throughout spiritually significant sites, this is still in practice in many temples across China today, there has even been superstitions as to certain chimes being cursed and attracting evil spirits. This superstition fueled the proliferation of wind chimes throughout the far east, and of course the market expanded massively.
Wind Chimes have only been seen in the western world from the 1800s onwards as a cultural export from China. It slowly became a trend to keep such items in homes opposed to places of worship. Feng-Shui, which is the Chinese system of aesthetics, increased the popularity of these items as they were thought to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere in the surrounding area.
The rich history of the chime spans from western to eastern cultures and is one of the oldest decorative objects known to be used by mankind. Maybe it’s supposed spiritual properties were what held it in such high regard with human beings over all these years, or maybe it is the relaxing feel and overall aura it gives to the surrounding environment. The chime has been around for a long time, and I suspect that it will be around for much longer.