Tiger Skin Rug

To the general public the Tibetan Tiger rug represents a narrowly constructed rug motif based on the Asiatic tiger and its symbolic meaning to Tibetan culture. While a fearsome predator, the Asiatic tiger also captured the meaning of power and grace within Tibetan culture, accordingly became a natural design motif for the original Tiger rug, which originated some 600 years ago.

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While foreign buyers of Oriental rug products may look on a Tiger rug motif as whimsical folk art, the underlying reality of Tibetan rural life and fear of great predators offers a more likely explanation for the Tibetan design. A small isolated rural village would live in constant fear and anxiety about attack from tigers.

Tiger Rug
Not surprisingly, the very fear of the wilderness and the attack by tigers led to a transformation of village fear into symbolic art which literally wove its way into area rugs, saddle rugs, and rugs destined for wall adornment. In the broader anthropological view of rugs and society, the Tiger rug motif extends the man versus animal themes idealized in cave wall painting of France 50,000 years ago or Aboriginal desert art in Australia dated 44,000 years or Assyrian and Chinese art dating 3,000 to 5,000 B.C. 

Urban centers such as Shigatse and Lhasa were key Oriental rug production areas for wool traders to sell their raw commodity to weavers in exchange for the more refined wares and foods, which concentrated along the trade paths of southern Asia . Chinese traders to the north introduced trade items and artistic motifs such as the dragon motif as alternative design to the Tiger rug. Similarly, Indian traders from the south traveled to Katmandu with wares and symbolic art imbedded within their tapestries and imported rug offerings.

The urban center Tiger rug weaver absorbed the "foreign" influences resulting in area rugs utilizing shorter wools, and with coloring schemes more akin to the Chinese phoenix and dragon Oriental rug designs to the north. The knotting density of the urban Tiger rug weaver tended towards 100 to 140 knots per square inch. The rural Tiger rug weaver appears to represent historically an indigenous and somewhat distinct weaving strategy to his urban counter-parts. A much longer and coarser wool was incorporated into the rural Tiger rug, with the result that knotting densities ranged below 100 per square inch. The feel or "hand" of the rural Tiger rug is coarse and where the pile threads are merely looped under the top layer of the welt, resulting in no pattern on the back of the Tiger rug. The underlying construction of the Tiger rug is based on an ancient Tibetan rug wool knotting technique where the wool is tied or knotted around a rod and then trimmed, which results in the typically "looped" nature of the rug. The shaggy pile nevertheless creates a strong luxuriantly primitive rug, and in certain Tiger rug designs showing a long fiber tassel along the border. Overall, in choice of wool, color and design, the rural Tiger rug resembles most closely the rural or nomadic Uzbek area rug, therein suggestive of some relationship and flow of cultural ideas in the past.

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