Tiger Rugs

Tibetan Tiger Rugs

We spent several months in Lhasa, where we followed 7 artisans and documented the whole process of making a Tibetan tiger rug. Enjoy the full video at the bottom of this page.

The Story Behind Tiger Rugs

Tiger striped rugs were mentioned in Tibetan literature for more than 1,300 years.

In the recent 5,000 years, Tibetan people’s worship of tigers did not falter. They believe tiger fur can protect from snake and scorpion venom, deter evil spirits, and protect their owner, house, and temple from bad fortune. In the past, only Tibetan aristocrats, religious elites, and famous doctors owned them. Nowadays, tiger patterned rugs and blankets are more accessible, but the vision and meaning in their symbolism prevails.

There are many beliefs about tigers in the traditional culture of the Han people. In many Asian regions, people use tiger rugs to protect their homes and families from misfortune. In the Han Dynasty, the custom of painting tigers on front doors on New Year’s Eve became a tradition.

The weaving room is always full of laughter. Artisans like to play Tibetan songs while at work, and sometimes they do sing together.

There are no more than a handful of dialogues in the whole video. This is not the result of deliberately cutting it out. These people have been working with each other for decades. They understand each other without words.

The last day of the filming was the May Day holiday. Children of several workers were off school, laughing and playing football in the workshop’s courtyard. At this moment, it all felt more like a large family gathering.

Tiger Rug Making Video

Are hand-knotted rugs better than machine made ones?

The appeal of hand-knotted rugs comes precisely from the “imperfections” when compared to factory production. We like to think about it in the same way we do about the original paintings vs their reprints. Even with the exact same pattern, no two pieces will be exactly the same. The subtle differences between the rugs make it so, each one is unique.

How significant are Tibetan rugs in the Tibetan culture?

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau climate is very cold. Thus, since the ancient times, weaved wool blankets were a necessity for Tibetan nomads. With them, the caravans could travel comfortably during the day and sleep peacefully through the night. Today, following many of the same designs and symbolisms, the Tibetan rugs are a cultural heritage, reuniting people with the memory of their ancestors.

What type of wool is used in Tibetan rug making?

We insist on using pure northern Tibet highland wool. These sheep graze freely in dry, high-altitude grasslands. Their wool passes very high quality certification standards. Compared with the mechanically processed wool of New Zealand and Australian mixed sheep, the wool fiber is noticeably brighter, thicker and longer. In addition, the thick keratin film and large hair scales, make it react easier to dyeing, producing more vibrant and lasting colours. The soft touch, firm colors and durability of traditional Tibetan rugs wouldn’t be possible to achieve by using any other wool.