Like much else about China, the story of Chinese carpets is all about tradition and modernization. While Chinese rugs have often been less popular than Persian or other styles of Oriental rugs, they are no less beautiful and interesting, and can make a fabulous addition to any space.
The Chinese have been making fine carpets for a long time, with examples going back as far as two thousand years. The original ones were used as floor coverings in the imperial courts, but as the technique was refined, they were used more and more in trade with other countries. The patterns of these older rugs resemble those of Chinese porcelain, with floral and dragon motifs. Sometimes they also incorporate Buddhist or Taoist imagery. In contrast to the busy designs and warm reds and oranges of the more popular Middle Eastern carpets, these older Chinese rugs are typically found in simple patterns in cooler shades of blue, green, and white.
Art Deco Designs
Oddly enough, the heyday of Chinese carpets is widely thought to have been in the 1920s. Although China had no real art deco movement of its own, savvy businessmen encouraged the carpet-weavers to use the patterns that were currently popular in the west. The resulting combination of fine workmanship, traditional Asian flair, and art deco designs resulted in a burst of beautiful carpets which are now quite rare and highly collectible. Although hard to find, the streamlined asymmetry of these rugs can make them quite an exciting addition to a home or a collection.
Modern Chinese Carpets
As China itself has modernized, so have its traditional carpets. These days, modern industry produces most of China’s carpets in Beijing and Tianjin. While newer carpets are typically thicker than the old ones due to the double warp used by the machines and the motifs borrow somewhat from the more popular Persian rugs, there is still a lot to recommend them. The machine-spun wool is very even, and it is typically dyed to resist fading from sun or washing, making them considerably more durable than the older rugs while still retaining much of the style.
The variety of styles across the years makes Chinese carpets a versatile choice for decorating or just for a conversation piece. Whether you prefer the elegant traditional rugs, the stylized art deco versions, or the practical modern ones, there is a carpet out there to suit every taste.