Once commonly attributed to the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand, the antique carpets of East Turkestan (the modern Xinjiang Province of China) were far more likely produced in the oasis towns of Khotan, Yarkand, and Kashgar. Indeed, new research has now made clear that it was in fact Khotan and the surrounding villages that likely produced most of the antique carpets of this type. But despite the fallacy of any connection with Samarkand, Khotan rugs and carpets were nevertheless very much the products of the Silk Road, for they display a remarkable blend of Chinese, Central Asian, and Persian design elements, although these are always drawn together in a distinctive, harmonious style and palette.
This lovely example has what is perhaps the most original and distinctive Khotan field design - a striking, complex pattern of parallel vertical flowering pomegranate trees in a deep orange-red set against a rich chocolate aubergine ground. The precise and controlled articulation of the compact design produces a lace-like lattice or trellis effect. The multiple geometric borders of ‘latchhook’ motifs and serial pentagons are all derived from the more westerly Turkmen weavings of Central Asia. While they preserve the same color scheme as the field, their much smaller scale produces a subtle yet effective framing contrast. Set against the nearby Takla Makan desert, the Khotan region is a remarkable agricultural paradise, watered by snow melt from the nearby mountain ranges. Thus, the pomegranate motif here is deeply symbolic of life, renewal, and bounteous natural prosperity.