Samarkand rugs are one of the most unique Oriental carpets, as numerous cultures contributed to their development, which resulted in their magnificent patterns and luscious colorings.
While the name of the rugs derives from the city of Samarkand, located in Uzbekistan where they were once marketed, they are largely produced by the Kyrgyz and Uzbek tribeswomen or in the towns of Khotan, Kashgar, and Yarkand in China. Khotan rugs, on the other hand, hail from the ancient city of Khotan, known also as Hotan, located in the southern part of Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang which is occupied by China. Despite different origins, both those rugs are often referred by the same name – Samarkand.
For thousands of years these lands of arid steppes, deserts and brutal mountain ranges were traversed by caravans of merchants and traders from China to Western Europe along the Silk Route. These unusual antique Samarkand carpets of Central Asia display themes from many oriental cultures including China with fretwork borders, lotus blossoms and cloud-bands, India with the swastika denoting infinity, Turkey with bold reciprocal borders and carnations, and Persia with floral trellis work. Perhaps the most evocative of all the East Turkestan motifs is the pomegranate, signifying prosperity. Woven at the crossroads of many civilizations, it is fitting that these antique oriental rugs and carpets from Samarkand employ such rich and varied symbolism. Interestingly enough, they share more similarities with typical Chinese carpets than those woven in Caucasus. The production of carpets in Uygur, sometimes described as East Turkestan, has continued since the 17th century. Some researchers theorize that the weaving craft in this region began with import of Indian Mughal carpets, however, there is little proof to support this claim. Because of their similarities it would be safe to assume that Khotans were either inspired or modeled after Samarkands.
Typically, they are in a long and relatively narrow format with simplistic spacious designs rendered in a glossy wool, occasionally embellished with richly brocaded silk and metal thread, which was possibly inspired by similar technique used in Persia. The distinctive and prevailing colorations of lacquer reds and Chinese yellows, heavily influenced by the neighboring countries of China and Turkey, have been produced in this region since at least the seventeenth century. Saffs are a subtype of Samarkans, made mainly with wool and silk. Due to their small size, they are used as prayer rugs.
Mixing luscious colors of Chinese carpets and elegant design of Persians, Samarkand and Khotan rugs delight with their exquisite beauty. We hope to see more of them in the nearest future!