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  Tibet Online > Message > Focus > 2014 > Tibetan Rugs

Introduction

Tibetan rug making is an ancient, traditional craft. Tibetan rugs are traditionally made from Tibetan highland sheep's wool, called changpel. Tibetans use rugs for many purposes ranging from flooring to wall hanging to horse saddles, though the most common use is as a seating carpet. A typical sleeping carpet measuring around 3ftx5ft (0.9m x 1.6m) is called a khaden.

History

The carpet making industry in Tibet stretches back hundreds if not thousands of years, yet as a lowly craft, it was not mentioned in early writings, aside from occasional references to the rugs owned by prominent religious figures.

Design

Tibetan carpets from the 19th century (perhaps earlier, though mostly carpets from the 19th century survive) are relatively restrained in terms of design and coloring, carpet makers at that time being restricted to a narrow range of natural dyes

Tiger rugs

The interest of western collectors of Tibetan rugs was particularly piqued by tiger rugs, in part because of their associations with Tantric meditation; many Tibetan tiger rugs were gifts for lamas in the monasteries.[5][6]

Wangden rugs

The term, "Wangden" is a marketplace term referring to a group of rugs of similar structure (a warp faced back weave). But given the wildly different palettes seen in these rugs, it is doubtful they could all originate from the small village of Wangden

Present Day Production in Tibet

In Lhasa, rug stores cater to both to local, national, and international tourists. Dark red Turkish imitations from factories in Qinghai are sold alongside other Chinese rugs and even silk carpets with Middle-eastern designs. Amongst local Tibetans, replicas of traditional Tibetan designs from machine-woven polyester are popular inexpensive alternatives to hand-made carpets.
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