Antique Chinese rug is remarkable, and worthy of the closest inspection. Its texture, designs, and symbolism show the greatest patience and thought.
Antique wool rugs woven in China are very scarce, and because of this, and for their historical interest as well as their uniqueness and attractiveness, they bring large prices.
In fact, they are almost unprocurable. A large and very fine specimen of this kind of rug is in the home of the late Governor Ames of Boston. It measures nine-teen by twenty-one feet. The colors are yellow and white, and these are arranged in odd designs over the entire rug.
A member of the family owning it writes : “This rug is said to have originally been in the Emperor’s Palace in China. As every emperor is obliged to have the palace newly furnished when he succeeds to the throne, owing to some superstition connected with the retaining of any of the former Emperor’s possessions, everything is removed and destroyed. Fortunately this rug escaped destruction.“
The modern Chinese rugs are vastly different from those of antiquity. There is, however, much of interest attached to them.
They are sought because of their antique designs, their harmonious coloring, and their durability.
The monstrous and fantastic forms that distinguished the antique are not so frequently met with in the modern production.
The predominating colors in a modern Chinese rug are yellow, blue, white, and fawn, and these are arranged very effectively. The designs are quaint and odd.
A border distinctly separated from the field is almost invariably seen. A most important geometrical motif observed in Chinese rugs is the Meandrian, especially the continuous and that derived from the hooked cross.
The hooked cross we find with rounded arms, generally in connection with a cloud band. The rosette from the vegetable motifs is very frequent, especially in borders ; also the branch and the continuous creeper.
Bats, butterflies, storks, and the goose are in many borders. The lion symbol of a happy omen—is often represented in those rugs designed especially for wedding ceremonies.
Very few Chinese Rugs came to America prior to World War I. If you have seen a few antique Chinese Rugs, you will note that they have a great deal of design.
Many people, who have seen only hundreds of modern Chinese with the plain effect or much open field, would probably not even recognize the antique Chinese rug as being a Chinese. One glance at plates of antique Chinese Rug tells the difference. Old Chinese and new Chinese are radically different.
I could write in detail about antique Chinese Rugs, but if I discussed the Ming period – 14th to 17th Century rugs – or the Ching rugs from the 17th century to late 18th century (which includes the Kang Hsi, the Yung Cheng and the Ch’ien Lung rugs), I would have to take much information from the rugs in the Japanese Imperial Household, Japanese Museums, Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
I have seen the ones in other museums, except those in Japan, but again do not find the interest in them that I do in the other types of Orientals. There have been a few that had great appeal.
Old type Chinese were from quite finely woven to very coarsely woven (many of those in museums are very, very coarse), and they had the short pile but never the heavy, tight, compact nap of the best of the modern Chinese.
When you think of the antique Chinese rug, you must think of the Chinese with the field well covered. The Chinese have always used blue and tan, but many of the old ones used cherry, apricot and yellow.
Antique Chinese Rug in 20th Century
1920 – 1931
This was the period of greatest transition and most confusion. Still to be had were the Peking quality of Chinese Rugs in old designs and a limited number of semi old Chinese Rugs, all highly figured.
The Peking were, as a class, much inferior to the factory made heavy Chinese Rugs of Tientsin. Many of the best Chinese rugs were still using the typical old Chinese weave, a rather finely woven rug of good wool but not the heavy, thick pile that began to appear about 1925.
To describe the color combinations used in Chinese rugs of this period would be to picture every combination imaginable. The more conservative patterns had a blue or tan field with a rose, blue or tan border. But they also came with green, gold, rose and lavender fields.
1930 – 1935
The depression very quickly put most of the six hundred rug weaving factories out of business. There were perhaps less than twenty so called factories by the time theJapanese invaded China.
The depression did one thing for the Chinese rug however. It eliminated the cheap, junky, jute like quality that had wholesaled for $1.10 to $1.25 persquare foot in the New York market.
And the Chinese rug of the depression years became a very heavy article of excellent wool. The prices were ridiculously low. A good 9 x 12 foot Chinese rug could be had from about $225.00 to $375.00 (maximum).
During this period many came with the completely plain fields without borders and without designs, except for three or four small Chinese sprays or motifs.
1935 – 1945
Very few Chinese rugs were made after the Japanese took over China. On each trip abroad I saw several hundred in the warehouse of the Port of London Authority up to 1940, but they were the Peking quality and not the fine, heavy quality that had come to America. The wool in these was seldom of excellent quality.
1945 – PRESENT TIME
Very few Chinese rugs have come to America since the close of the war. Most of the machinery for spinning wool, the looms, etc. were destroyed. American firms found it impossible to start up again for many reasons.
But a limited number of Chinese rugs, mostly in the 9 x 12 foot size, did come to New York in two different types. Most of those in the 9 x 12 foot size came in almost completely plain fields with no designs whatsoever, or at least very little design, and most of them were cream, apricot and green with a very few in plain blue.