Tiger Rug (Khaden), ca. 1900
Wool 49 in. x 30 in. (124.46 cm x 76.2 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase2007.13
The khaden (sitting or sleeping rug) is one of the most common of the Tibetan pile rugs. Twentieth-century khaden are generally between three and six feet long; earlier rugs are sometimes smaller. As with other Tibetan rugs used as saddle blankets, for meditation, as seat backs, or as pillar covers, the weaving technique is the Tibetan knot with the cut Senneh loop. It is a technique that may have come to the Himalayan peoples through contact with Turkic peoples to the north and west. Scholars have been unable to establish how long rugs have been produced in Tibet, but most believe it to be an old craft.
Tibetan paintings (thangkas) feature yogins seated on tiger skins, which are believed to have protective powers. Some believe that in a religious context the tiger skin (or rug) one sits upon aids in quelling negative impulses. Skins have traditionally been considered a luxury item for those in authority or power, and it may be that as the numbers of tigers diminished in the 19th century, woven tiger rugs took their place.
The designs on tiger rugs fall into three categories: abstract tiger skins, flayed tiger skin rugs, and rugs with two auspicious, happy tigers on a plain ground. The pattern of this rug, with stripes running along the length of the vertebrae then shifting their orientation at the tail and base of the head, implies a pelt without the head.