Silk Road Rugs

How the Silk Road Brought Persian Rugs to the World

The Han dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China. With it came many improvements that allowed China to become a world power. One of these improvements was the establishment of trade routes between China and the Middle East. These trade routes would eventually become known collectively as the Silk Road. The establishment of the Silk Road played an essential role in bringing the exquisite artistry of Persian carpets and Oriental rugs to the rest of the world.

Silk Road Offers New Trade Routes and New Opportunities

Prior to the Han dynasty, Asia was relatively isolated from the rest of the world due to treacherous mountain ranges and difficulty moving goods outside of their own territory. What would eventually become known collectively as the Silk Road began as a series of trade routes that connected China with the Middle East. This opened opportunities for trade in both directions and allowed commerce to be established between these two once isolated areas of the world.

Silk Road Rugs - Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in NYC

Silk Road Rugs

Another invention that is closely related to the development of these trade routes is that China felt the need to protect them and built the Great Wall of China for this specific purpose. The development of these trade routes and protection of them, became one of the most important factors in the economic development of civilizations in Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Iran, Europe, China, the Horn of Africa and Arabia.

The opening of these trade routes allowed people on both ends, and along its route, to enjoy products and goods that they had never seen or experienced before this time. Some of the most important commodity items traded along the route were spices, silk, gemstones, raw minerals, and of course, carpets and rugs. These trade routes opened opportunities for not only merchants, but their customers as well. People began to enjoy a lifestyle that allowed them to expand beyond only the goods and products that were locally available. Traded goods became highly desirable and were often a sign of luxury and success.

However, the Silk Road also allowed for economic expansion of the lower classes as well. This is because they now had the ability to produce their wares and sell them on a larger global market. This can be compared to the way the modern internet allowed smaller businesses to expand their product offerings on a global basis through improved communication networks and online sales. It had many of the same effects that we see in the expanded globalization that is taking place today.

Silk Road Map

Map of the Silk Road

Silk Road Brings Offers Carpet Weaving Centers Of Persia Export Opportunities

The Silk Road trade routes were well established by the 1500’s. Caravans traveled frequently along these trade routes, bartering and exchanging goods along the way. During the 1500’s, the Persian rulers of the Safavid Dynasty saw an opportunity to increase their wealth and the level of export goods to the rest of the world.

Carpets and rugs from small Persian villages and towns were already a prized item on both ends of the Silk Road. Persia was in the middle of the routes and goods traveling in both directions often had to pass through this area. The Safavid rulers were responsible for an expansion of the arts and wealth of the Persian Empire.

The Safavid rulers hired some of their best artisans to begin designing carpets for export and to show off their wealth and artistry. The Persian rug weavers and carpet designers produced exquisite works that were often displayed in public buildings and palaces. They became a highly desirable commodity among the wealthy and they were often given as gifts in diplomatic dealing and relations.

Many of these exquisite and fine carpets found their way into castles, cathedrals, and wealthy European estates through these routes. These artisans were told to establish schools and pass on these designs to the small village rug weavers. The Persian rug weavers were taught to make rugs of high quality and exquisite beauty that had never been seen before in the world.

The Silk Road gave the carpet manufacturers an easy access to a distribution channel that was hungry for everything they could produce. This eventually led to the establishment of schools and production centers in cities such as Tabriz, Isfahan, Kerman, and many other non Persian weaving centers that were located conveniently close to the routes such as the Khotan rugs of East Turkestan. This ushered in the Golden Age of the Safavid Dynasty and the Golden Age of the Persian carpet industry.

Rug Weaving

An example of rug weaving with vibrant colors

Importance of the Silk Road Today

The Silk Road was not always known by that name. It was simply a series of trade routes. The name was first officially used in 1877 by Ferdinand von Richthofen, who made seven expeditions along the route from 1868 to 1872. The reason for the name was derived from the fact that silk was one of the major commodities that was traded along the route.

The ability to produce goods and export them to distant lands was one factor that helped in the expansion of economic development along the trade routes. However, it also allowed artists to expand their creativity because they had access to materials such as silk, wool, cotton and rug dyes that were not available to them locally. It also meant expanded cultural exchanges and the ability to acquire new techniques and skills. However, in many cases, as with the techniques of the Persian rug centers, it also meant the need to protect trade secrets as well.

The Silk Road was perhaps the single most important historical event in the history of the rug trade. It led to extraordinary variety of fine carpets that we now know today. The range of colors and styles that we now have access to is mind boggling. Now, you can find Oriental and Persian rugs for almost any taste or style and it all began with the establishment of the Silk Road trade routes almost 2,000 years ago.

We encourage you to look around and enjoy the fabulous colors and designs in our collection of exquisite rugs for your home or office. You might find that you are as enamored by them as the first Europeans were when they saw them for the first time. With so many different one of a kind works of art, they are truly difficult to resist.

This rug blog about the Silk Road and it’s influence on the development of the rug trade was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rug Gallery in NYC.

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