Tibet, an (almost) forgotten country.
Everyone knows the name, however, Tibet cannot quickly be found on the map, because it was occupied by the Chinese in 1959. The inclusion in the People’s Republic of China is controversial until today (more detailed information under http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibet).
According to historical records rug knotting was brought to Tibet by travelling traders through the Silk Road several hundred years ago, other sources report on the Turkmen who brought this art onto the Tibetan plateau during their migration and campaigns.
That Tibetan rugs are hardly known to us is due to the fact that in Tibet no rugs were manufactured for the export. People almost only knotted for their own requirements. Frequently these carpets were knotted as presents for marriages or moving into a new apartment and then given away.
Even older is the tradition of production of saddlecloth which predominantly served as protection of the horseback, but, also were used as sitting mats, as well. A lot of pieces were manufactured in the measurements 150-185 x 60-90 as sleeping rug. Within this context one should not forget that in Tibet there is a very harsh climate. The temperature differences are extreme, Tibet is located in a height of 4500 to 5000 meters on average, and thus rugs also served as protection against cold. Originally all old Tibetans were padded for protection and heat insulation when being used in the open air. The fringes of the old Tibetans are always sewn and covered by the feeding and border. The feeding is mostly outlined with a red or blue banding out of fabric or velvet into a width of approximately 5 – 8 cm. Most of the traditional rugs of the Tibetans come from the Panau district between the places Gyantse and Shigatse. The region around Lhasa was a main production location of finer Tibetan carpets.
As a rule, the pile material consists of hand spun lamb’s wool, only rarely of goat, yak or camel hair. In this, the wool predominantly comes from the highland sheet from central Tibet. Only this race is bred in these great heights and resists the lowest temperatures due to the high fat content in the wool. This high fat content also provides the extreme durability and the brilliance of the wool. Wwarp and weft of the subcutaneous tissue mostly consist of wool, rarely of cotton.
Rugs from Tibet differ from all other knotted carpets by using a knotting rod: the pile thread is looped around the cotton warp thread and an approximately five millimeter thick metal rod. When an entire row of knots has been completed, the loops are cut open and a brush-like pile is being produced. Because of this technique, the knotting performance could be increased and the loss of material reduced.
Mainly natural colours were applied for dyeing. In essence, old Tibetans distinguish themselves by their extraordinary colours and a pattern which except with China has no similarities with knotting works from other originating countries.
They constitute an example how religious and spiritual influences are reflected in handknotted rugs. There are a lot of motifs from Tibetan mythology: dragon, phoenix, animal motives, mandala, lotus and chrysanthemums flowers, Buddhist symbols of luck, Swastika, wisdom knots, as well as always the three stacked medallions – the symbol of the three Buddhist lotus positions.
In addition to this, there are a lot of motifs from the Lamaist Buddhism and Taoism, also Chinese designs have had an impact. For the production the density of knots only played a tangential role, because the carpets were not considered as floor covering in Tibet.
The manufacturing of the real Tibetans ended in 1959. A lot of pieces have been destroyed in the turmoil of Chinese invasion. The number of the preserved excellent pieces is very low. Each carpet is a real unique specimen.
Here we show you a selection of our Tibet collection which has been created at the end of the 18th / at the beginning of the 19th century. You can find further pieces in our warehouse in Hamburg.
Explanation of the designations customary in commerce. The Tibetan expression was correspondingly placed in parentheses:
Sabden (sa-gdan) = large-size carpet
Khaden (kha-gdan) = seat or sleeping carpet
Goyo, Goyül (sgo-yol) = wall hanging, door cover
Katum (ka-´thum) = pillar carpet
Makden (smag-gdan) = saddle base, saddle underlay
Masho (smag-shol) = saddle upper part
Takheb (rta-kheb) = horse blanket
Tkheb (dpral-kheb) = horse headdress
Jabuye (rgyab-snyi) = pillow
Thigyabyö (khri-rgyab-yol) = chair back
Khagangma (kha-gang-ma) = chair seat
Kyongden (rkyong-gdan) = carpet until a length of up to 500 cm
Kyongring (rkyong-ring) = carpet with a length of more than 500 cm
Furthermore we recommend you the book „Tibetan Carpets“ written by Hans Hongsermeier, with contributions by Heinrich Harrer, Peter Mauch and Jim Ford. Published by the Pinguin publishing company, Innsbruck.