Friday, January 23, 2009

Chinese Royality or just an Area Rug?

Today I decided to find out more about the history of the Chinese dragon used in area rugs. The usual happened; I found very little information about the design and tons of Chinese area rugs for sale. The information I did find was conflicting.
This Chinese Dragon rug was woven by Nepalese weavers. I love the bright blue used. That shade of blue isn't used often in area rug weaving and is usually found in Chinese, Nepalese and Tibetan area rugs.
The characteristics of a Chinese dragon are their bodies are shaped like a huge snake like lizard, with no wings and four legs and a head. it.

In a lot of Chinese Dragon area rugs the dragon would be snapping at a pearl or two dragons would be fighting over a pearl. The dragon represented the Imperial ruler and the pearl was perfection.

Last week we had a client bring in her pink Chinese area rug with a dragon on it.
She asked if I knew anything about the rug, such as the age and history behind it. I was told that dragons with five toes or claws were only made for royalty, however that is only partly true.

The confusing part is who to believe when it comes to when a dragon with five claws was only for royalty. I found three different dates, the first is 250BC, second is 1336AD and thirdly is 1783AD. As you can see it isn't a little difference as to when the decree went out that dragons with five claws were for royalty only. One could take a guess and say that all are correct depending who was in power at the time.
Early historic records showed the Chinese dragon had only three claws, but it was then increased to four and during the first Ming dynasty, the Emperor decreed that a five clawed dragon was strictly for the Imperial family and it was a capital offense for anyone but the Emperor himself to wear a completely golden five clawed dragon. The five clawed dragon was worn by the Emperor and the fist and second ranked princes. The four clawed dragon was used for imperial nobility and three clawed dragons were used by lower ranks and

the general public. If someone used the wrong colour or incorrect number of claws for their designation
on a dragon their entire family were killed. I think it is safe to say that the rule was strictly obeyed and there were no rebels running around with five clawed golden dragons on their persons.
An interesting fact about the number of claws found on dragons is that the five clawed dragons originated in China and the further away from China you go the fewer number of claws the dragon would have. For instance, Korean dragons usually have four claws and Japanese dragons have three.
The only real area rug reference I could find was that after China became a republic in 1912, area rugs were widely made using a five clawed dragon, with no deadly consequences.
It can be concluded that unless you own a Chinese five clawed dragon area rug that was made before 1912; You own a beautiful five clawed dragon area rug and not an area rug made for royalty. Sorry to say. I am inclined to say that any area rug made for royalty would be either in a museum or with their descendants and not in the hands of the general public.
Thanks for reading, RugloverMary.