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Chinese Carpet

History of Chinese Carpet
With 2200 years history, the Chinese carpet has its origins in the north-west of the country in the area around Xinjiang. Sadly, there is no contemporary record from which we can determine with any real accuracy how and when carpets were first created and began to be used. However, it is significant that in 1978 an archaeologist working from Xinjiang discovered a fragment of woollen fabric thought to be three thousand years old and which is likely to be the forerunner of the tufted carpet. Subsequent finds show that tufted carpets with coloured designs were being produced in China twenty-five centuries ago. Research indicates that following the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD) the technique of carpet making spread along the Silk Route extending from Qinghai, Gansu, Nigxia, Shenmu and Yulin to Inner Mongolia and Shanxi. Carpet weaving later extended into other locations such as Beijing (formerly Peking), Tianjing, Hebei and Shandong, where their own distinctive styles evolved.

In late period of 19th century, Chinese carpet reached its full maturity. After this period, the machine and chemical dye enter into China, the China carpet went through huge variance.

Carpets, particularly large wool carpets, were not used in China until comparatively recent times. Rugs to cover the ¡®Kang¡± or fire heated brick bed platform typical in North China were not uncommon at least as early Ming times. These rugs were typically divided to give a place to set a table on the Kang or designed to cover the entire Kang. Most of these rugs were made of felt and used camel hair, which was dyed black and red at the borders. The felt rugs, some silk and others wool, in the Shoso-in at Nara, Japan are probably the earliest examples of Chinese carpets and although dating is questioned may date back to Tang times. From historical records, it appears that no wool looms were in use in Beijing until the very early 1860s. In 1860, a Buddhist priest named Ho Chi-qing started a weaving school at Paoku for the poor of Beijing. This proved successful and the school divided into a Western gate and Eastern gate schools. Later, the Western gate school moved to Tientsin where it developed a tradition of making very durable camel wool carpets decorated with simple geometrical patterns in red, blue and brown. In the later years of the 1800s, the quality of the rug making had deteriorated markedly. The Tientsin wool rug industry collapsed completely with the fall of the Qing dynasty. In the 1930s the rug industry was restarted in both Tientsin and Shanghai with the aid of western capital. In 1949, the tradition was further transplanted to Hong Kong and other points in Asia where it carries on the tradition through more modern techniques.

Chinese Carpet Designs and Styles
Unlike most oriental rugs, the motifs on Chinese rugs do not unite in order to create one design; they stand alone. Also, unlike most oriental rugs, Chinese designs are very literal rather than decorative; most motifs have very exact meanings. Some Chinese sub-styles include Ningxia, Baodou, Gansu, Peking, and Mongolia.
The traditional Chinese knotted carpets were normally made from wool but northern nomads would also use goat and camel hair. Early weavers found that silk had special qualities that gave nuances of color as the light source changed or was varied. A quality that gave rise to the legend of the magic carpet! Pure silk is cool to the touch and this gave the silk carpet a further 'magical' and special quality.

Designs have always been inspired by the traditional Buddhist and Taoist religious influences on the individual artisans. They are symbolic rather than decorative, such as Yin and Yang pictures. Some religious symbols can also be seen: lotus flowers symbolize holy and pure; clouds mean auspicious. You also can find many animal designs on carpets: The bat (fu) sharing its name with the Chinese word for luck was a particular symbol of good fortune. Dragons, which are a symbol of great power; phoenixes indicate immortality; The character Shou is quite often used, meaning longevity and the character Fu is less common, meaning for good fortune. What really sets these apart though involves the meticulous carving which separates not only the intricate border and medallion from the field, but also the different colors from one another creating a truly remarkable and treasured work of art. Colors were usually those which were considered to be both elegant and of good taste. These included black, blue, red, white, beige and yellow.

Chinese carpets are always of great value and Chinese weavers are thought to be some of the best ones in the world. Many museums treasure their Chinese carpets, especially their antique carpets in their exhibition rooms. The art of carpet weaving reached a peak during the period from the 16th to the 18th century. Skilled weavers created complex geometric designs that were simple yet with perfectly balanced symmetry while also having strong local characteristics. With the passage of time the techniques of the carpet weaver spread from China through western Asia and into countries as far away as Persia and beyond.


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