Antique Oriental Peking Rugs
The centuries-old Chinese textile industry is rich in history - Chinese carpets were first woven centuries ago by nomadic tribes in the Sinkiang and Ninghsia regions of western China - but it wasn't until sometime towards the end of the 19th century that the making of rugs for export to the west began in earnest in China as the quality and fineness of the rugs was improved.
The Antique Peking Rug
Using weaving techniques very much like those of Persia, India and Central Asia, Chinese (Peking) rugs were constructed primarily of sheep's wool hand-knotted on vertical looms. Some rugs were woven entirely of silk or had silk pile while a lesser number used the hair of goats, camels and yaks. Though a Turkish knot was occassionally used for the border of the rug, Persian knots were typically used for the field. The pile was relatively long and the knotting - at 30-60 KPSI - coarse, but the yarn was twisted so loosely that its ends opened and spread into tufts which gave a denser surface appearance.
The coloring of Chinese rugs is quite unlike that of most other eastern carpets - often with a limited palette with as few as two colors. Surface designs were sometimes enhanced by incising the motif so the rug detail was in relief adding a 3D effect. Some of the popular motifs included dragons, lotus flowers and octagons.
Rug Production in China
Some of the earliest surviving examples of the art of hand woven carpetry in China were known to be produced during the Chen Dynasty - also known as the Southern Chen dynasty - from 557-589AD. Typically, antique Chinese carpets can be classified according to the ruling dynasty in power at the time of their production or to their place of origin. By the early to mid-19th century, carpet production flourished at the Imperial Court of Beijing (Peking). Particularly instrumental in this progressive development of the state of the artform was the patronage of three emperors of the Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1912) - Ch'ien Lung, Chia Ch'ing, and Tao Kuang.
Carpets produced in China first won official recognition in America at the 1903 Saint Louis International Exhibition where an entry was awarded first prize. With western interest kindled, substantial efforts were made to transform a cottage handicraft into a major industry in, most-notably, the Beijing and Tianjin areas of northeastern China. By the 1920s, so-called Peking-style and Tiensin-style rugs were produced according to American import specifications and were "all the rage" in the US.
Owing to the great diversity of themes and figures used as well as the lack of standardization in antique carpetmaking, old rugs produced in China are among the most unique and/or original rugs found anywhere. China offers the consumer one of the broadest varieties of design styles as well as a variety of construction types such as pile, kilim, and needlepoint.