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Thread: What are those?
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Old April 29th, 2012, 01:41 PM   #58
Pierre Galafassi
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 87

Hi Filiberto and Jeff,

I do fully agree with your posts.

As far as the most likely date for the introduction of pile-rug weaving in Chinese workshops is concerned, Hans Bidder brought very interesting and credible informations (1).

Dr Bidder was a German diplomat in post in Beijing after the first world war, he was also a sinologist and a rug connoisseur (probably considered the best expert for rugs of the Tarim basin).
The question of China-made rugs was among his interests too and he worked during two decades with Chinese historians, with philologists, as well as with the odd competent Chinese rug dealer of the time, to clarify it.

According to Bidder, felt rugs were known and used by the Chinese elite at least since the Mongol Yuan dynasty, or even earlier, perhaps popularized by one of the several earlier dynasties of nomad origin, like the Kin (Djurchet).

As far as pile rug-making in Chinese workshops is concerned, Bidder concludes to a much later date of introduction. When he arrived in Beijing, in 1925, he still noted «a total lack of innate appreciation in the Chinese for the carpet as a work of art as well as of practical understanding of it as an element in domestic habitation» (2). Bidder explains this indifference to rugs by the fact that, alone in all Asia, only the Han Chinese dropped, very early in their history, the habit of eating and sleeping on the ground and made wooden chairs, beds and tables instead. For a long time, pile rugs were therefore only imported into China either (seldom) ordered by the Palace, or by the occasional gentleman-collector, by foreign ethnic minorities, including conquerors, or came as gifts from other Kingdoms.

Bidder thinks that, although «..no documentary evidence for this surmise has ever been ascertained,..., not even in the archives of the Beijing Palace Museum» (3), the best candidate, as creator of truly Chinese pile-rug weaving workshops, was the Manchu Qing Emperor Gaozong (alias Qianlong, 1711-1799) who was «less focussed on the Middle Kingdom and less indifferent to the areas beyond its border» than other Ming and Qing Emperors.
This interest led to his conquests of the Turkik Tarim-basin and other parts of central Asia (with certainly an ample booty of rugs) and included a systematic massacre of the Dzungar in Mongolia.

Bidder thinks that the psychological profile of Gaozong, who wanted to rival the magnificence of the Persian- and Mughal courts is a valid clue to.
Besides, Beijing folk tales had it that Gaozong’s concubine Khoja Iparhan, (alias Xiang Fei), a Uyghur princess, jump started the Emperor’s rather un-Chinese passion for rugs. Understandingly, Bidder does not give much credit to this story.

P.S. I just came across a miniature featuring a Timurid warrior fighting a very «naturalistic» dragon. Unlike the typical Chinese dragon, which is usually airborne, the beast is walking on the ground, but otherwise it looks quite «Chinese». The miniature also resembles Renaissance renditions of «St Georges and the Dragon». I shall post it later.

(1) Hans Bidder. Carpets from Eastern Turkestan.
(2) ibid. page 9
(3) ibid. page 26

Last edited by Pierre Galafassi; April 29th, 2012 at 06:07 PM.
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