Carpet weaving is one of mankind’s most ancient and finest crafts. It is unknown where the art originated - whether it was the Chinese, Mongolians, Siberians, Central Asians, Persians or Egyptians (or perhaps even across the ocean by the Mayans!) - is something that is still undetermined today. Earliest historic evidence (found till date) points towards the Siberian and Mongolian tribes engaging in widespread rug-making as an art (but this is simply because of the presence of evidence; it is widely believed that carpet making started earlier).
Historically, carpets were created through many different methods - woven, knotted, flat-weave or hooked (all on a loom, generally speaking). Carpets were used for generally two reasons - with no sophisticated methods for heating, rugs were used to warm the cold earth or stone floors as well as hung on walls (as tapestries) for insulation. The second reason for hanging carpets was purely for ornamental purposes. The wealthier you were, the finer the weave, material and designs on your carpet. It was an art to the highest degree, with the wealthy competing over leading rugmaker’s carpets, since they were all one of a kind. Carpets did not just provide heat, they reflected the personality and tastes of the residents of the household and gave distinction to their social status.
The oldest surviving carpet, (since most carpets were made of perishable materials) pictured above, was found encased in ice in ancient Scythian (or perhaps Achaemenidian) tombs. The tomb is located under a Pazyryk burial mound, in the Pazyryk Valley of the high Altai Mountains in Siberia (a cross roads of Chinese, Russian and Kazakh people). It is approximately 6’6” x 6’0” and framed by a border of mighty griffins. It dates back to approximately 2500-2000 BCE.
While there are very few finds of such historical carpets, we nonetheless know they existed through the works of historians, scribes, artists and poets -for example, Homer spoke about carpets in 9th century, and many ancient Persian and Chinese artists have left us records of what once must have been amazing feats of art. The 14th and 15th centuries saw carpets move west, to Europe - in paintings, at least, so we know that “oriental” rugs must have been quite the commodity. But it had caught on as a trade in Europe before that - in the 1200’s in Spain, then, four hundred years later, embellished to the finest levels in the Louvre workshops in France.
Carpets are an amazing map of the intricate threads of history - a tapestry that, as it moved across the globe, gradually changed into different styles, designs, and materials as it adapted to the greatly varying and unique cultures it came into contact with. Some used silk, some used wool and yet others woven strands of gold for ornamentation! Different types of looms - both vertical and horizontal - were created in an effort to make increasingly diverse weaving or knotting styles. Fringes were added, so were beads. Edges were rounded.
Artists throughout the joint continents have since used their rugs as canvases for the stories they wished to tell - be it the sweeping landscape of the Altai Mountains, an epic battle in Central Asia, or pleasing patterns to the eye in the Middle East. At the end of the day, carpet weaving was a way for artists, representatives, of a sort, of their historic people to those of us who gaze back in wonder, as an expression of religious and cultural values.
In the next few parts of this series, we will explore the most prominent carpet makers: the Chinese, Turkmen, Pakistani, Persian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Turkish, Spanish and finally French carpets. As lush to our feet as they are on our eyes, no doubt it will be an enlightening (and thoroughly comfortable) journey!
@2 years ago with 5 notes
#carpet #carpets #rug #rugs #weaving #knotting #silk road #silk #orient #europe #asia #chinese #persian
@2 years ago with 12 notes
#silk road #silk routes #silk #china #han #han dynasty #zhang qian #trade #europe #asia #central asia #diplomacy #diplomat #history
The occurance of silk trade in 2nd century BCE and onwards was attributed to the expansion of the Silk Road into Central Asia by the Hans, primarily through the diplomatic efforts of Zhang Qian, envoy of Emperor Wu of Han, considered one of China’s greatest emperors. Zhang is applauded as the father of the communication routes between Europe and Asia and considered responsible for laying down the foundation of the great Silk Road (although there were previous lesser-known trade routes already in existence across Eurasia). Zhang’s subsequent report of his travels, relayed to the Emperor, allowed commercial and diplomatic relations between Eastern Asia and Western Asia to flourish, and many more Chinese envoys were sent westward to explore as a result.
Nasreddin Hoja, a satirical Sufi figure (famous for his turban) who is believed to have lived during the Middle Ages (around 13th century), is famous throughout the breadth of the Ottoman empire (and beyond, from Bulgaria to China) for his funny stories and anecdotes that sought to combat pompousity and and inspire hope in others.
Here is one such story:
Once a big official saved a sheep from the jaws of a wolf. The sheep was then obliged to follow his savior home. But as soon as they arrived, the man decided to slaughter it. The poor beast began baaing with all its energy. The uproar was too much for the Hoja, who lived next door, and he came over to see what was wrong.
@2 years ago with 4 notes
#nasreddin #nasreddin hoja #turkic #turkey #turkish #sufi #wisdom #satire #silk road #persian #ottoman
“You see this sheep?” the lord said. “I saved it from a wolf!”
“Then why is it cursing you?” asked the Hoja.
“Cursing me?” asked the neighbor.
“Yes, he says that you too are a wolf.”
@2 years ago with 10 notes
#silk #china #silk road #trade #middle east #india #europe #roman #rome #roman empire
According to Chinese legends, silk was first introduced by Empress Lei-Zu, wife of the mythical Yellow Emperor, who was said to have ruled China in about 3000 BC. She is credited with inventing the loom and introducing sericulture (the cultivation of raw silk through the rearing of silkworms). Archaeological finds have supported this claim - at least the date of it, anyway. At the site of Qianshanyang in the province of Zhejiang, a group of ribbons, threads and woven fragments, dated about 3000 BC, was found.
Silk was originally produced as garments only for the rulers, but it was gradually introduced into other well-to-do classes. As the manufacturing and use of silk exploded, it was quickly put to industrial uses by the quick-thinking Chinese and became a staple part of their economy (in musical instruments, fishing-lines, bowstrings, etc). During the Han dynasty and continuing into the Tang, silk was even used as currency for trade and taxes, especially in dealings with foreigners (values of objects were calculated in lengths of silk as opposed to pounds of gold).
The Chinese attempted to keep the secret of producing silk a secret, but it was a lost battle. As waves of Chinese immigrants moved into Korea around 200 BCE, sericulture was established there, and slowly spread westward to Khotan (city on rim of Taklamakan Desert) in 200 ACE and then India in 300 ACE. Indians, though capable of producing their own silk garments, understood the quality and the desire of those west to them to possess Chinese silks - and so the trade relationship between the Chinese and Indian strengthened.
Indian precious stones and metals such as jade, gold and silver would be swapped for silk, which, as middlemen, the Indians would then trade with the Roman Empire, who became increasingly enamoured with silk cloth. By 500 ACE silk production made its way to Byzantium and Persia, thus allowing the silk industry to be established in the Middle East, cutting down trade costs greatly for those in Europe. However, Chinese silk was still greatly valued and so trade on the Silk Road continued as before. Seven centuries later, Italians began silk production with the introduction of 2000 skilled silk weavers from Constantinople. Silk production then became commonplace in Europe, joining Asia in proficiency of the art, thus making it available for the masses throughout the joint continents.
And that’s the story of silk!