East Turkestan Rugs
A Comprehensive Collection of Antique Rugs from East Turkestan
Antique East Turkestan Rugs come from the area northwest of China in the Xinjiang region that borders India, Pakistan and parts of Russia, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. The most well known antique rugs originating from this region are those from Khotan and Samarkand. Khotan rugs straddle the boundary between Chinese or Tibetan rugs and those of the Middle East. While the main design elements, details, and drawing appear generally Chinese, the composition with central medallions or allover small medallions in rows relates more to Persian, Turkish, and Turkoman rugs from further west. Khotan and Samarkand rugs also tend to make more use of smaller elements as space-fillers, like western oriental rugs, rather than using the more open or spare spatial approach of Chinese rugs.
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At times even the motives of Khotans are of Persian or Turkoman derivation as well, and they rarely utilize pictorial compositions like rugs in China and Tibet. The palette of antique Khotan carpets is more varied than that of Chinese and Tibetan rugs, ranging from rich colors to soft pastels. Give their strong geometric and abstract drawing, Khotans are well suited to contemporary modern decor. Yarkand is also one of the major producing rugs from East Turkestan and are renowned for their silk rugs.
The region of East Turkestan is located in an unusual fringe area that is sandwiched between contrasting cultures. Its proximity to the Taklamakan Desert and the Tarim Basin made it an unavoidable stop for merchants traveling along the Silk Road. The motifs and varied use of guls, medallions and allover patterns is representative of all the outside influences that weavers in East Turkestan benefited from.
The area’s exquisite pomegranate design motifs and fretwork accents paint an exotic picture that has Chinese influences yet is more exotic and unpredictable. The style and growing recognition of antique rugs from East Turkestan have helped them achieve record-setting prices at auction. Stylistically, East Turkestan rugs are perfect for designers and collectors who want to avoid pigeonholes and wish to create truly distinctive interiors.
Most of the antique East Turkestan rugs and carpets that you will find are going to be relatively large oversized rugs. Most will be long and narrow and for the most part, this is due to the fact that they were woven for the Buddhist monks to sit side by side and meditate. You will find some of these antique carpets were made with silk fibers and it is not completely out of the question to find an East Turkestan rug that was crafted with metal-thread.
Just by looking at them, most would think that they are looking at a Chinese rug. The patterns that were used in the antique East Turkestan carpets were very similar to the patterns that were used in Chinese rugs from the same periods. You will be able to identify the East Turkestan carpets by the colors and the fact that they incorporated design elements that were not exclusively Chinese.
Chinese rugs tend to be boldly colored while East Turkestan carpets are more subdued and decorative. The East Turkestan rugs were decorated with many different symbols that were similar to symbols in carpets from other countries. This was mainly due to the fact that the area where these items were crafted was situated along the major silk routs. Traders going east and west would bring to the local markets items from along the entire silk rout. Thus the weavers and carpet designers had been exposed to many different and unique patterns from all over Asia and the Middle East.
In today’s antique rug market, most dealers will lump the East Turkestan rugs together with the antique Khotan rugs. Both Khotan and East Turkestan, are located on the main old silk route and they are not that far apart. Due to their proximity to each other and the fact that the same traders would visit both, many of their designs and textures are remarkably similar.
Today’s interior designers are very familiar with the Khotan rugs because they made more of them. Since they are familiar with that term and since both productions are so closely related, antique rug dealers will just use the terms Khotan and East Turkestan interchangeably.
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