Country of Origin

The major producers of rugs outside of Iran are India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and China.  Most of the rugs these countries weave are based on Persian designs.

Indian Rugs
Carpet weaving may have been introduced to India with the coming of the first Muslim conquerors.  It can with more certainty be traced to the beginning of the Mughal Dynasty in the early fifteenth century. Under the patronage of the Mughals, Indian craftsmen adopted Persian techniques and designs.

More recently, India has begun to make carpets with very modern designs, in addition to pieces based on Persian motifs.  And, custom-created carpets are also possible: anything that can be drawn in 2-D can be custom commissioned into a carpet in India.  

Afghanistan and Pakistan
Prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there was a distinct Afghan rug type with tribal pieces made by the Turkeman and Balouch tribes and even some finer city-type carpets such as those made in Herat.  We carry some of these lovely older Afghan pieces in our store.  But these sorts of Afghan rugs are hardly ever produced today.  Instead, most of what is presently made draws on traditional rug motifs, but with little reference to the people or place they come from.  Instead, these carpets are a design pastiche, woven with the western market in mind.

With over 4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, it is easiest to talk about a combined  Afghan/Pakistani rug convention under which several types or brands are made and marketed.  There are Bokhara and Jaldar rugs that use machine-spun wool and borrow designs from Persian Turkeman rugs.  Then there are Kazak and Chobi rugs, which are new pieces made to look like antique Persians.  These pieces are knotted using hand-spun wool, then stonewashed and tea-dyed to evoke an antique look. Chobi rugs borrow botanical motifs from the masterworks of Tabriz and Sarough, while Kazak carpets are inspired from older Caucasian carpets with geometric designs.

Turkish or Anatolian Rugs
Carpet weaving was possibly introduced into ancient Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) by nomadic tribes.  Others speculate that carpet weaving came with Muslim conquerors in the first millennium CE.  Whenever carpet weaving began in Turkey, we know that it became a well-regarded art form and that Marco Polo was impressed by the beauty of Turkish carpets.  Modern Turkey has three major weaving centers: Kayseri in central Turkey, Milas in the southwest, and Hereke in the southeast.

Weaving in Milas dates to 16th century.  The rugs produced there feature distinctive arch shapes and are typically woven in mustard yellow and blue wool.  Kayseri produces both wool and silk rugs, although Turkey’s finer silk rugs come from Hereke, a weaving center established in the middle of the 19th century. Today, Hereke produces mostly single-knotted silk rugs in Turkish and Persian designs.  Although Turkey doesn’t produce a great number of rugs, it is a large marketplace for rugs from all over the world, particularly those made in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China.

In order to talk about rugs in China, we must distinguish between pre-20th century rugs and later pieces.  Prior to the 20th century, Chinese rugs were not widely available to the outside world and were made with Chinese tastes in mind.  Their designs are quite unique from carpets made in other regions and are classified according the ruling emperor of the time, not the people or place from which they were woven. The earliest surviving examples of Chinese carpets were produced under the last emperor of the Chen Dynasty.

But Chinese rugs since the First World War have been made for market to the west.  These include the well-regarded Art Deco rugs from China up to present day pieces made mostly in traditional Persian designs.  

When speaking of Chinese rugs, it is also important to note that the rugs of Turkestan and Tibet form their own distinctive rug types, although most so-called Tibetan carpets are actually woven in India.