Tibetan and Nepalese Rugs
Rugs from Tibet
Tibetan rugs are highly prized for their designs, quality, and materials. Steeped in a nomadic tradition, Tibet has been producing rugs for centuries by the hands of skilled craftsmen travelling in each tribe.
Tibetan rugs serve both decorative and practical purposes. They are used as wall ornaments when crafted purely for decorative purposes. Practically, they have been used as something to sleep on or under, as floor coverings and for meditation. In their nomadic tradition, the Tibetans have historically used rugs as saddles on the horses they travel with. Because they often serve as a household item that is used on a daily basis, Tibetan rugs are fashioned to be durable and long lasting. In fact, prolonged use and age may even have a positive effect on the pattern and dyes of a traditional handmade Tibetan rug, increasing its value.
Tibetan rugs are renown for the material from which they are made as well as the techniques used to produce them. Crafted from high quality wool acquired from sheep living in the Tibetan highlands (sometimes combined with silk threads), this wool tends to be more elastic, provides more warmth and has a higher amount of lanolin than other types – an indication of outstanding quality. Each rug is created by the “Tibetan Knot”, a unique knotting style achieved by a vertical loom that boasts a dense knot structure per inch. The result? A rug that is both soft and flexible, providing optimum warmth.
Designs are profoundly influenced by Buddhism, a religion that is believed to pervade every aspect of Tibetan life. This influence, coupled with unique handmade dyes derived from vegetation, is what perhaps makes Tibetan rugs so distinct. Common designs include symbols that are of importance in Buddhism, such as the lotus flower (purity) and crane (longevity). These symbols may take on an abstract form. Motifs are large and few set against a plain background.
Rugs from Nepal
It would be difficult to discuss Tibetan rugs without mentioning rugs from Nepal. Although there has been evidence found regarding the presence of a centuries-old tradition of weaving in the country, the popularity of rug making as an industry is believed to have only begun with the influx of Tibetan refugees circa 1959. Due to political strife in Tibet at this time, thousands of Tibetans fled to Nepal, bringing with them a long history of rug making and knowledge that has now made Nepal one of the centres of rug production in the world.
Because of the Tibetan influence, Nepalese rugs tend to be similar to Tibetan rugs. Technique and materials are often the same, although wool of Tibetan highland sheep is still deemed to be of a superior quality.
The only difference may lie in the design. Because of their proximity to India, Nepali rugs may also feature patterns and motifs that also appear in India. These include floral motifs dominated by dark red dyes and are heavily ornate.