What Prompted Me to Write a Book on Tibet’s Rug Weaving Heritage?

IMG_5592.JPG

When I began making preliminary notes on my Tibetan rug book, Of Wool and Loom: The Tradition of Tibetan Rugs, Orchid Press, Bangkok, Thailand, 2000, I was already deeply engaged in every aspect of rug weaving in Tibet. My mission there was to revitalize Tibet’s rug weaving heritage in post Cultural Revolution Tibet, and my goal was to produce the best Tibetan rug ever made. So, I would say, an important reason for me in writing the book was because of my passion and access. I was a “hands-on” and engaged practitioner , an author and a committed entrepreneur fully invested in every aspect  of the craftsmanship of rug weaving including but not limited to; selection of the best highland sheep wool fiber, yarn spinning, the dyeing process, design and weaving. I was also the man who believed there would be a market for authentic Tibetan handcrafted rugs in the international market.

I had been collecting antique Tibetan rugs as a hobby over many years, starting with a few pieces I inherited from my family. Over time, this collection grew until it reached a point where I realized it needed the professional care and preservation a museum could offer. I also knew my collection could be used for educational purposes to showcase Tibetan culture in the United States. Quite frankly, the book was a great way to introduce authentic Khawachen rugs by its in-house author.

 

Caption: Another example of the popular, repeated four-petal floral motif within framed lozenges. The meander pattern of the outer border blending into linked Buddhist yungdrung and the orange field indicate ecclesiastic ownership.

Caption: Another example of the popular, repeated four-petal floral motif within framed lozenges. The meander pattern of the outer border blending into linked Buddhist yungdrung and the orange field indicate ecclesiastic ownership.

During my research and interviews with old master weavers in Tibet, I realized it was imperative that  a book on Tibetan rugs was written in the context of Tibetan culture and geography. Tibet’s written literature is dominated by Buddhism, and knowledge of rug weaving has always relied on an oral tradition. There is, therefore, no written material on the subject with the exception of one rare mention of a “khaden”, a Tibetan pile rug as we know it today, in Milarepa’s (11 th  Century) biography. In it, Milarepa described  his emotional first meeting with his Guru Marpa, who was sitting on layers of mats piled high with an ornamental “khaden” on top.

I have found the handful of books on Tibetans rugs written in English by Western authors to be very useful. However, these authors were unable to visit Tibet and study Tibet’s rug weaving heritage first hand. One of these books was  authored by my friend and publisher, Hal Kuloy whose book was titled, Tibetan Rugs,  H. K. Kuloy, Orchid Press, Bangkok, 1982. Hal encouraged me and  was a source of inspiration for me to write my book .

A central medallion depicting a Dharma-chakra, the Buddhist symbol of the eight-fold path, is framed on two sides by dramatic wave and mountain motifs with Mount Meru looming and on two sides with elaborate Khotan border designs.

A central medallion depicting a Dharma-chakra, the Buddhist symbol of the eight-fold path, is framed on two sides by dramatic wave and mountain motifs with Mount Meru looming and on two sides with elaborate Khotan border designs.

 

 

 

In the past 3 years, I have been asked several times  to write an updated version of my book, Of Wool and Loom: The Tradition of Tibetan Rugs . Several Chinese friends  have also asked me to publish a Chinese translation of my book for readers in China. I will have to find a way to accomplish both projects together. Writing Of Wool and Loom, in many ways fell quite naturally into my lap, as a result of my commitment and collaboration with Tibet’s most talented weavers, dye masters, designers and yarn spinners. I am most grateful for all the help I was given by all of them in my research, interviews and in the writing process. Having devoted the past three decades to producing some of the world’s most beautiful Tibetan rugs at our weaving center, Khawachen, in Lhasa  I think an updated version of this book would reflect a deeper level of experience on my part and be both fun to write and more engaging to read.

Tashi
5/01/18