Book Reviews

Of Wool and Loom

The Tradition of Tibetan Rugs

by Trinley Chodrak and Kesang Tashi

2000. 160 pp., richly illustrated with 154 colour plates. 29 x 22 cm.

ISBN-10: 974-8304-15-9 Softbound $35.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-15-1
ISBN-10: 974-8304-13-2 Hardbound $48.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-13-7


Of Wool and Loom

The Tradition of Tibetan Rugs

Book review by Jack Haldane (Hali, 2001)


Tibetan rugs, though appreciated by a growing number of connoisseurs, have nevertheless been somewhat neglected by authors. This new publication thus joins a relatively small group of books on the subject, among which the best known include Philip Denwood’s The Tibetan Carpet (1974), Hallvard K. Kuløy’s Tibetan Rugs (1982), Diana K. Myers’ Exhibition Catalogue for the Washington Textile Museum, Temple, Household, Horseback (1984) and Mimi Lipton’s The Tiger Rugs of Tibet (1988).
    This book is from Kuløy’s own publishing company and he provides a sympathetic foreword. The authors are Tibetans, so their experience with rugs and their access to all manner of local information is very different from that enjoyed by outsiders. The text part of this volume is readable and useful. The plates are beautifully printed and include thirteen slings, ten horse/animal trappings and 23 forehead covers for horses and mules. There is even one piece measuring 7,75m by a mere 6cm wide which, if found further north, would have been described as a tent band.
    Few of the rugs illustrated have any provenance, nor is there anything in the text or captions to indicate why the authors believe that most of the pieces illustrated are from the early 20th century. Only thirteen are described as 19th- 20th century, and a mere eight as 19th century.
    The authors maintain that the weaving techniques used for making Tibetan rugs have not changed over the years. It would seem that in the 20th century wools were collected and processed, and the rugs themselves woven, exactly as they were in earlier centuries. The designs, too, reflect this same tenacity of tradition. This is beautifully confirmed by four rugs on pp.149 and 150 which were woven in the late 1990s and are now to be found in the Gangchen Folk Arts Collection.
    Perfection not being a state to be found this side of the great divide, one does find errors and omissions. It is curious that the publishers did not include a much fuller bibliography, nor the details of the several excellent catalogues of dealers’ exhibitions of Tibetan rugs. Much the same can be said of the large map, which shows south Central Asia and a good part of northern India, but only a total of 32 places, of which just thirteen are in Tibet.

[Read a review from The Centre of Tibetan Studies] [Read a review from The Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers] [More Orchid Press Reviews]