Antique Ningxia Rugs and Ningsia Carpets from China
Antique Ningxia Rugs and Chinese Ningsia Carpets – China, one of the oldest continuous civilizations on Earth, also boasts one of the most ancient and most important rug-making traditions. Due to the immense size, diversity, and age of China, there are a tremendous amount of different types of antique rugs that are unique to China, some of which are unique to a specific period, some of which are traditionally woven in a particular part of the country, and some of which are only made by certain groups of people. Among the great variety of Chinese rugs is the Ningxia style.
Ningxia rugs are among the very oldest antique rugs from China, as their style has remained consistently popular since at least the eighteenth century – and possibly quite a bit earlier. Ningxia rugs are typically characterized by their qualities of reservation, understatement, and formality. Indeed, many Ningxia carpets are downright austere, lacking elaborate decoration and preferring instead soft and subdued fields of color, especially saffron yellows, ivories, and a range of contrasting blues. The composition of these carpets is very much classically Chinese – open, balanced, and stately.
When these rugs do feature decorative elements outside of contrasting colors, one can find traditional symbols. Such as dragons, cloud-bands, and fretwork motifs. Because of their fine technique, restraint, and classic character, Ningxia carpets have often been held to products of imperial Chinese workshops. Consistently among the most popular and desirable of all antique Chinese rugs, Ningxia rugs are truly remarkable.
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How Antique Chinese Ningxia Carpets Came to the World
The antique Oriental carpets of the Ningxia region of China have a sublime quality that must be experienced to be appreciated fully. It is possible to describe the colors and patterns, but the softness and luxurious texture is something that must be experienced to be understood. Traditional rug weavers produced these magnificent pieces for thousands of years in a remote area until they were discovered by an Emperor, who recognized their beauty and brought them to the rest of the world. Here is their story.
Setting the Stage For Ningxia and Its Chinese Rug Weaving Industry
Ningxia is an area of North Central China that is bounded by Mongolia and the Yellow River. It is a landlocked area surrounded by rivers on three sides and the Great Wall of China on the northeastern boundary. It is mostly a flat plain that is mostly desert intermixed with vast forests and mountainous regions. Throughout the centuries, it was sparely settled due to its harsh climate.
The main source of economic opportunity has been animal grazing. It is known for its wool production. Now, it is in what is known as the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. A large percentage of the population is Chinese Muslims. An extensive canal system has been built the allows for irrigation and increased transportation opportunities. This is the backdrop for the production of what are considered to be some of the most beautiful carpets in the world.
Ningxia was known not only for the quantity of wool that it produces but also for the quality of it as well. The quality of carpets produced in Ningxia may have been influenced by the climate. The region experiences extreme cold in the winter, and hot summers. It was necessary to develop warm carpets for the winter and to protect from the summer heat. Also, this climate is favorable for encouraging the sheep to grow dense, strong coats for protection from the elements.
The Weaving Of Antique Chinese Ningxia Rugs
An abundance of wool and natural rug dye materials provided a consistent source for raw materials that were perfect for the production of relatively course pile rugs. Pile rug weaving can be traced back to at least the early Han Dynasty in China, around 205 BCE-220 CE.
Carpet weaving in China can be divided into two different classes. The first class is the Imperial carpets that were produced for the city palaces and used in the Forbidden City. These highly collectible rugs were primarily produced in Beijing China. Carpets for export and non Imperial purposes were produced in both Ninxia and Beijing.
The carpets produced for the Forbidden City eventually increased in demand. They were also created for wealthy merchants and noblemen who could afford them. As demand increased, eventually, new sources of carpets were sought.
The Kangxi Emperor discovered Ningxia carpets during a journey to the western provinces in 1696 and 1697. He instantly recognized the quality of the artistry, the materials, and beautiful designs.
He brought a number of them back for use in audience halls, and they became a part of the Qing dynasty palace life. From that point forward, Ningxia carpets became a part of Royal Chinese life, and the demand for them increased. Before long, Ningxia was a major rug producing center, and it remains so today.
Structure, Patterns, and Designs Of Chinese Ningxia Rugs
The demand for Ningxia carpets continued to increase, and by the late 1800s, they were being exported in large quantities to many parts of the world. One of the unique characteristics of these carpets is that they show several different influences. The wools are coarse, warm, and durable. They are also soft to the touch and accept dyes beautifully. This is what gives Ninxia carpets the special combination of softness and design that makes them stand out.
Ningxia carpets often use the Persian Senneh rug knot in a manner where it is open to the left. This shows a Persian rug weaving influence in the technique. One thing that sets carpets from Ningxia apart from those produced for use in the Forbidden City and by the Emperor is that although they used many Chinese motifs and designs, they were not as restricted in their artistic freedom. They used a combination of Chinese and tribal Mongolian motifs and designs.
The designs themselves are often well-balanced and use a color palette that is mellow and gentle on the eyes. The background is usually yellow or red with designs in blue, brown, white, and red. Compared to carpets produced in other areas of China, such as Beijing, the Ningxia rugs from this area are relatively course and have a lower knot count. However, this does not detract from their elegance and softness.
You can find antique Ningxia carpets in several formats from small square ones to larger room sized carpets. In the designs themselves, it is possible to find designs such as central medallions and motifs that are reminiscent of Persian carpets. You can also find ones with a more traditional Chinese feel and Chinese motifs. Sometimes, you can find these elements mixed in a way that is unique to Ningxia. It is possible to find Ninxia carpets that have a Persian-style border with Chinese motifs in the field.
The mixture of cultural influences in the designs of carpets from this area is one of the things that makes them fascinating and irresistible. You can find floral motifs with sweeping leaves and curvy vines, majestic dragons, Chinese calligraphy, and Greek-key geometric borders. The range of designs is expansive, and they have a glow that compliments the softness of the pile.
There is nothing in the world like an antique Chinese Ningxia carpet. Now, the term Ninxia refers not only to carpets from the region, but it is also a quality designation. We encourage you to explore our collection of masterfully woven pieces from this carpet center of the world. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by our antique rug gallery in NYC to see them for yourself, because Ninxia carpets must be experienced to be fully appreciated.
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