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Mongolian Rugs have along history going back almost to the Mongol period in China. Few if any early antique carpets of this kind are actually are preserved, but they are represented in illuminated Chinese manuscripts, where they appear in a form similar to examples still produced today. Mongolian carpets have a transparent composition utilizing see-through motifs against a uniform ground, in keeping with antique Chinese rug design. The motifs themselves are generally Chinese - meanders, knot-work, and fretted medallions - with a taste for open spaces. Colors are soft and earthy with emphasis on subtle mixing of tones or variegation.
Unlike countries that developed their own motifs and style, Mongolian carpets are the product of outside influences particularly from China. Scholars believe the majority of Mongolian rugs were created by foreign minorities living in the area. On the Asian Steppe, highly decorative felt rugs and panels with undulating motifs were created, but these bear little similarity to the Chinese-influenced Mongolian rugs seen on the market today. Because the domestic carpet weaving industry is small compared to high-profile areas, antique Mongolian carpets are rare commodities.
Stylistically, antique Mongolian rugs feature a variety of Chinese patterns and Buddhist symbols that are drawn in a simplified manner. The color schemes are similarly restrained. Soft neutrals, somber earth tones, stately jewel tones and coral pink accents are found in Mongolian rugs. Weavers in Mongolia used more restricted color schemes than Chinese weavers, but they also used colors differently to produce decorative variegation and textural patterns. Many of these graphic rugs feature subtle variations on traditional eastern motifs.
In general, Mongolian rugs depict Chinese-influenced patterns, such as fretwork spandrels, endless knots, shou symbols, tigers and Buddhist motifs. They also have a preference for eastern design principles that use negative space effectively and incorporate a less-is-more style that works well in modern interiors.