A fine collection of antique carpets from Northern China and Tibet has just been introduced into our Prince's building Gallery and our Annex Gallery in Aberdeen.

The vibrant rugs from Tibet are well known for their lively designs, bright vivacious colors and charming symbolism. Most of the Tibetan rugs fall into one of three forms; either they are woven as rectangles which are large enough for a man to sleep on, or small rectangles that act as a single seat, or lastly are sewn as flanking panels that act as saddle rugs placed on the back of a horse's saddle by their nomadic owners. The designs of these carpets derive from a wide variety of sources, including Buddhist iconography such as flaming pearls and immortality symbols, mythological symbols such as snow lions, dragons and phoenix, as well as motifs found on imported and native textiles such as meandering scrolling lotus flowers.

Our current collection exhibits examples of all shapes and all the classic Tibetan motifs, in a range of blue, red, orange and brown ground rugs.

Also included in the carpets on view are a number of carpets from the towns of Baotao and Suiyuan, now part of Inner Mongolia. These rugs tend to be more classically 'Chinese' in their look and style, with repeating motifs, scrolling floral meanders, vases and scattered motifs taken from textile embroidery traditions. These rugs are characterized by their emphasis on a deep blue palate, with reds, pinks and creams, making rugs from this area easy to identify.

The most refined of all Chinese carpets are from the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningxia. They are made from the distinctively lustrous, long and wavy wool of sheep from the Alxa plateau. The colours are distinctive and continued to be based on vegetable dyes throughout the 1900's, they include tumeric yellows and golds, indigo blues and saffron reds.The Ningxia rugs in our collection tend to divide into two types, those made for temple use such as prayer rugs and banner rugs that have strong Buddhist symbolism, and those made for the nobility for special occasions which tend to have symbols that are lucky or call for longevity.