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Chinese Rugs

What is a Chinese Rug?

An authentic Chinese rug is a hand-knotted rug made in China. The earliest surviving examples of Chinese Oriental rugs have been dated to the 17th century at the end of the Ming dynasty. They are woven with Persian knots, typically with wool or silk pile on a cotton foundation. Antique Chinese rugs are among the most easily identifiable antique Oriental rugs with a variety of designs including medallions and pictorial motifs with dragons, phoenixes, trees and other Chinese symbols. Colors were soft and simple in these rugs, with blue, cream and gold.

Chinese rugs are unique because up until around the 19th century their rugs were woven strictly for internal consumption. Because of this, many of the designs we see in antique Chinese rugs accurately represent Chinese beliefs and culture, more so than a typical Persian city rug woven in the same time period. This is because other rug weaving countries were catering more toward Western tastes. 

Art Deco Chinese Rugs

Once the rug market in China opened up to outside influence, brighter colors and more open fields were incorporated into Chinese rugs. Specifically, a period arose in which Art Deco style rugs became highly desired. Exotic colors of magenta, purple and turquoise were found in these rugs with a solid background and contrasting solid border. Traditional Chinese motifs were still used in Art Deco rugs such as vases, flowers, and butterflies. Both Walter Nichols and Helen Fette, two Americans, joined this movement and began producing popular Art Deco Chinese rugs in China in the 1920's. Nichols Chinese rugs are distinguishable by their stiffer and denser nature. Nichols Art Deco carpets are known around the world and are still highly desired by designers and collectors today. Shop our selection of antique and semi antique Chinese rugs for sale.

Symbols in Chinese Rugs

Many of the symbols found in Chinese carpets are derived from religious sources including Taoist and Buddhist beliefs. Taoism goes back to at least the 4th century BC. Some of the most popular symbols used in Chinese rugs include the butterfly, Fo, a pair of cranes, painting scrolls, and bats. For a thorough list of symbols found in all types of Oriental rugs, see our guide to Oriental rug motifs

Peony: Prosperity and wealth

Peony in Chinese Rug

Bamboo: Purity

Dragons: Power

Bats: Happiness and good luck

Bats in a Chinese Rug

Horses: Success

Phoenix: Immortality

Cranes: Longevity

Deer: Longevity

Clouds: Future

Vase: Peace and Harmony

Books: Knowledge

Shou: Long Life

Butterflies: Happy marriage

Lotus: Purity

Wheel of Law

Two Fish

Lyre (Harp)


Colors in Chinese Rugs

Red: Happiness

White: Purity

Blue: Immortality

Pink: Love

Yellow: Royalty

Black: Solemnity

Green: Life

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