Khotan was a town in what is historically known as East Turkestan now the Chinese province, of Xingjian. This remote region is larger than all of Western Europe, and is located in the center of Asia. It is one of the most Isolated places in the world, but it holds a carpet weaving tradition that is at least 1000 years old.
East Turkestan is difficult to access. The heartland known as the Tarim Basin-is surrounded on three sides by mountains, which serve as walls against Tibet, Central Asia and Pakistan. The fourth side is cut off by vast desert. Maybe this is one reason why East Turkistan became a destination hot spot for settlers, coming from all directions. The Tarim Basin was also a significant stop on the Silk Roads. The routes south to India, north to Central Asia, west to Persia, Anatolia and Europe, all branched out from here. The melting pot of cultures in this place is represented in the “Khotan” rugs that came from here, which is what makes them so beautiful and interesting. In just one rug you can often see signs of Islamic, Chinese and Indian design/culture.
Portrait of a king of Khotan, Dunhuang Mogao Caves, 10th century
It is believed by historians that between 1,500 and 1,000 BC is when the first (Indo European) settlers began coming to this region, which was then inhabited by Turkic nomads. These settlers lived in Khotan and other oasis towns, and were influenced by India, becoming Buddhists. The Turkic nomads continued to stay in the mountains.
It was not until the 9th and 10th centuries the Turkic tribes adopted Islam, and forced the conversion of the Buddhist Oasis, the adoption of their language and changed the culture of the place, creating Eastern Turkestan as it is today. However, Buddhist and other cultural influences never disappeared from the carpets.
Rug Expert Hans Bidder wrote in his book “Carpets from Eastern Turkestan (1964)
“iconoclastic Islam which spread into the oases from middle of the 10th century was indeed able to subdue the religious art of Buddhism, but the new faith proved incapable of gaining any hold upon individual arts and crafts which had their roots in the traditional customs and economic existence of the oases.”
These unique works of art are characterized by stylized geometric patterns, and long, narrow designs. They are meticulously detailed. Arrangements of Persian motifs that also incorporate elements of Chinese designs are common, and the central Composition is usually Chinese in style. Colors range from rich to pale pastels. Typical hues include red, yellow, brown, gold and green. The pomegranate is often celebrated in Khotan rugs, shown as a shrub with symmetric branches, or as a fruit. This was an iconic regional symbol. Local symbols like this one are combined with Buddhist and Islamic symbols, influenced by the varying residents of Khotan.
Khotans are well suited for modern contemporary decor due to their geometric and strongly abstract nature. In the last decade, these rugs have been frequently featured in high-end design publications and are coveted by top designers.
Here are some more of the Khotan rugs we have in our rug gallery. These are examples of some more contemporary versions, with a darker color palette than the traditional
Check back in soon to learn more about the exciting Silk Roads and the adventures had by their explorers.