Samarkand & Khotan Rugs

The desert oasis of Khotan was an important stop on the Silk Road...

Khotan was the first place outside of inland China to begin cultivating silk. The legend, repeated in many sources, and illustrated in murals discovered by archaeologists, is that a Chinese princess brought silkworm eggs hidden in her hair when she was sent to marry the Khotanese king. This probably took place in the first half of the 1st century AD but is disputed by a number of scholars.[85]

One version of the story is told by the Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang who describes the covert transfer of silkworms to Khotan by a Chinese princess. Xuanzang, on his return from India between 640 and 645, crossed Central Asia passing through the kingdoms of Kashgar and Khotan (Yutian in Chinese).[86]

According to Xuazang, the introduction of sericulture to Khotan occurred in the first quarter of the 5th century. The King of Khotan wanted to obtain silkworm eggs, mulberry seeds and Chinese know-how – the three crucial components of silk production. The Chinese court had strict rules against these items leaving China, to maintain the Chinese monopoly on silk manufacture. Xuanzang wrote that the King of Khotan asked for the hand of a Chinese princess in marriage as a token of his allegiance to the Chinese emperor. The request was granted, and an ambassador was sent to the Chinese court to escort the Chinese princess to Khotan. He advised the princess that she would need to bring silkworms and mulberry seeds in order to make herself robes in Khotan and to make the people prosperous. The princess concealed silkworm eggs and mulberry seeds in her headdress and smuggled them through the Chinese frontier. According to his text, silkworm eggs, mulberry trees and weaving techniques passed from Khotan to India, and from there eventually reached Europe.[87]

The people of Khotan were expert carpet weavers who produced high quality antique rugs and carpets for both internal and the commercial trade.

Samarkand carpets and reached the height of their popularity between the 17th Century and 19th century although archaeological evidence shows local people produced intricately woven textiles more than 1,000 years earlier.

Samarkand (a.ka. Khotan rugs) were traditionally produced using the asymmetric Persian carpet knot, which gives the pile the directional quality associated with carpets from the Far East.

Although elements from Chinese and Tibetan carpets are evident in the medallion designs of Khotan, the colors, detailed patterns, execution, and production methods make them unlike carpets produced in the Far East.

Whether you’re looking for a museum-worthy masterpiece or a handwoven, bohemian rug for your home, Khyber Pass Gallery has it all.

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