Dung-Dkar, Tibetan temple conch-shell trumpet
Gifted in 2019
Musical Instrument Collection: MIMEd 6465

This is a Dung-Dkar, a type of Tibetan temple trumpet made from a conch shell. Dung-Dkar are used in ensembles with several other wind and percussion instruments in traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastic ceremonies. This example was acquired in a hotel shop by Richard de Soldenhoff in the small town of Tsarang in the Upper Mustang area of Nepal.

Many Buddhist monasteries were forced to close when Tibet came under Chinese rule in the early 1950s, so it is possible that this trumpet came from one of these monastic communities. The shell has been carved with the Chitipati, a pair of skeletons holding staffs and flask of amrita (nectar), a sacred drink. In Buddhist symbolism, dancing skeletons are not intended to be frightening, but rather to remind us of the transience of human life. The shell is mounted with silver metal, embossed with foliate designs and animals, and set with coloured stones.

If you search for Richard de Soldenhoff (c1948- ) on the internet, the results you get relate to leprosy and kidney donation. The first subject is understood when one learns that he spent his working life as a medical doctor. Having trained as a GP in Edinburgh, Richard devoted his career to addressing problems of leprosy in countries including Nigeria, Zambia, Nepal, India and Indonesia. Since his retirement and return to Edinburgh, Richard has continued to support those with specific needs, volunteering as a care-assistant for disabled holidaymakers and as a sighted guide for blind people.

The kidney donation results relate to a yet more profound way in which Richard has put the needs of others before his own – by donating one of his kidneys and thereby saving the life of a complete stranger. When he is not involved in health-related issues, Richard is often to be found up a Scottish peak or attending and volunteering at events held at St Cecilia’s Hall.

Story by Dr Jenny Nex, Curator, Musical Instrument Collection