Silk Tibetan Saddle Carpet

I have never seen another silk Tibetan saddle carpet, though I have read of two others. Since they don’t grow silk worms in Tibet the carpet was probably made in a Chinese workshop as a special order for a Tibetan nobleman. My best guess to its age would be mid-20th Century – 1930-1959.

I bought it in the winter of 1987 from the seasonal Tibetan nomads who used to winter at Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu valley. That was when there were open fields and rice paddies between Mahankal Road, where I used to live, and the Stupa. There they could pitch their tents. Today it is crowded solid with cheap cement houses, and the Chinese have forcibly settled the nomads., thus they come no more.

I remember the exact moment what I found it. The nomads sat on blankets around the stupa all day and sold whatever they could. I was picking through a smelly pile of rags and remnants when I grabbed it from the back. I knew it was silk the instant I touched it. It was filthy and torn at the edges. It had no backing or edging and the holes where the girth strap passes through was torn and unraveling. Just to make sure I burned a thread and smelled it – just like singed human hair, not plastic! I was sure it was authentic.

I took it to “The Joker” – a well-known Tibetan carpet dealer – and had him wash it, repair the edges of the strap holes and put a new backing and edging on it. This carpet has always had one of the prime display walls wherever I’ve lived, one of the best pieces in my collection.

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