Chinese Pillar Carpets
All About Pillar Carpets
Pillar carpets are stunning pieces of antique Chinese art. Typically, they were used in Buddhist prayer halls. Let’s explore the history of these carpets and what makes them so spectacular.
What is a Pillar Carpet?
A pillar carpet usually comes in a pair of two. This is because they were designed to wrap around a structural pillar, and being split into two pieces is how it got on and off the pillar. Each piece is typically long and narrow, like a runner rug. The design of the pieces goes together and sometimes makes up one larger design when they’re put together.
Most of the pillar carpets that we know about today come from the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty lasted from 1644 to 1912, so it is more than likely that any pillar carpet you see comes from somewhere in that time period. Many of the years of the Qing dynasty were marked by artistic pursuits, and the production of many types of carpets (including pillar carpets) exemplifies that.
These pieces usually come from Tibetan temples, and some are found from Mongolia as well. Lots of textile art and hangings were used in these ancient Buddhist temples. Not only were pillar carpets common, but so were textile banners, rugs and tapestries hung on the walls, and textiles used as curtains.
Typical Designs of Pillar Carpets
Antique pillar carpets are generally woven out of wool, and sometimes also use silk. The colors of these pillar carpets don’t really differ from the colors you’d see in any other Chinese, Tibetan, or Mongolian carpets. They will include blues, whites, yellows, reds, and earth tone browns.
An important aspect of pillar carpets are the symbols and motifs that are used. Since these carpets were created for the pillars of temples, most of them include religious symbolism, including Taoist and Buddhist motifs. The carpets also use lots of symbolism typical of other Chinese carpets. In pillar carpets you will often see a Chinese dragon symbol spiraling as if it is wrapping itself around the pillar. The dragon is and was a very important symbol in Chinese culture and is seen across much of China’s art. It is the only mythological creature in the entire Eastern zodiac, and they are said to be harbingers of good fortune.
Another motif commonly seen in pillar carpets (and Chinese art in general) is the cloud band. The cloud band can be traced all the way back to the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE.) The cloud band represents the opening to the heavenly realm. There are many different interpretations of the cloud band motif, but it will typically occur as wavy lines, zig zags, floral patterns, or most recognizably, actual stylized clouds.
Pillar carpets are an important part of Chinese history and are stunning pieces of art.