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Khotan Rugs - Works of Beauty and History
Khotan Rugs are not only artistic works of beauty, they are also artistic works with a fascinating history.
Khotan is 1 of 3 carpet producing regions in East Turkestan, each of which has a recognizable and distinct style. The other 2 regions are Kashga and Yarkand. At the northern end of the Tibetan Plateau rests Khotan, between the Yurungkash River and the Karakash River.
Even though the natural barriers formed by the Taklamakan desert and the Kunlun Mountain range make Khotan a challenge to access, for thousands of years it was a desert oasis stop on the Silk Road. The carpet weavers of Khotan were known for their remarkable skills, producing the highest quality carpets to be found anywhere in the world. Archeology reveals that the people of Khotan have been producing sophisticated textile weavings for over 1,000 years.
From the 17th Century through the 19th century Khotan Rugs were much sought after. The carpet weavers produced rugs and carpets for both the commercial trade and their own population. Through the years Khotan has been controlled by many imperial powers and dynasties, all having an influence on the carpet designs. From the Huns to Chinese Buddhists to the Uyghurs and from traders and travelers, the rugs of Khotan have reflected the influence of these different cultural perspectives and belief systems.
Historically, the dyers of Kashmir had a monopoly over madder and indigo dyes, and the related brilliant colors derived from them. Thus, the trade routes between Kashmir and Khotan were very important as the Khotan weavers needed the Kashmir dyes. The earth tones from beige to brown were produced by the available plants in the Khotan area.
Master weavers held the responsibility for assuring that the proper materials were purchased and they also supervised the highly-trained weavers. Khotan weavers used the Persian carpet knot, which, because of its asymmetrical knotting, produced a pile that lays directionally, a trait common to carpets from the Far East. Most Khotan rugs were constructed from a wool pile knotted around a cotton warp and for every knotted-pile row there would be added a couple shoots of weft, which is common in the Kazak region carpets ( which is located in the Caucus region ).
The medallion designs significant to Khotan carpets are similar to the Tibetan and Chinese rugs, except that the means of production, the execution of patterns, the detail in the patterns and, last but not least, the color palette are quite distinctive and not like any rug made in the Far East.
Designs were influenced by the work of carpet weavers in Iran, India, Anatolia, Turkey and other countries. Arabesques in an all-over pattern, floral patterns and medallion motifs were usual in the carpets.
In the beginning of the 20th Century, Khotan weavers started using synthetic dyes, and, at the same time, many of the historic and traditional carpet making techniques were lost. However, modern Khotan rugs remain of great value for their rare beauty and versatility in styling.
At present, Khotan – variously Hotan – is in the region of Zinjiang, China.