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Section 2
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In Xinjiang carpet weaving is an age-old traditional craft requiring superb skill to create the carpets which are famous all over the world. Hotan County, renowned for its jade, is also the home of Xinjiang's carpet weaving trade. For anyone sauntering along the streets of Hotan's towns, the most spectacular goods on display are the gorgeous elaborate carpets. Every village has its own weaving workshop and craftsmen, and in the homes of many countryfolk there are felt mats covering the floor, a rug-like hanging on the wall, and a patterned carpet spread over the kang, as well as exquisite cushions and antimacassars.Archaeological evidence of carpet weaving in Xinjiang goes back over 2,000 years. In 1959 archaeologists discovered fragments of a carpet dating from the time of the Eastern Han (25-220) inside a wooden coffin unearthed at the ancient Niya site in Minfeng County. More carpet fragments, dating from the time of the Western Han (205 B.C.-A.D. 24), were dug up at the Loulan tombs in 1980. Finds like these have been made in other parts of Xinjiang as well. For instance, in Kuqa County, an area once within the ancient region of Qiuci, a carpet dating from the Han Dynasty was discovered, and another from the time of the Northern Dynasties (386-581) was unearthed at an ancient site in Bachu (Maralwexi) County.
With the Silk Road as the hub of communications between east and West, the coming and going of traders meant that Xinjiang's carpets reached the west very early, while at the same time carpets from ancient Persia were brought into Xinjiang. In this way Chinese and foreign carpet weaving techniques and decorative patterns influenced each other. The Qing Dynasty Illustrated Records of Xinjiang reports that "every year four or five thousand knotted~pile carpets are sent to British and Russian territories (in Central and Eastern Asia)," showing that even at that time the carpets of Xinjiang were admired abroad. Many of Xinjiang's carpets that were sent to Europe and America between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries have become treasured objets d'art for collectors. Xinjiang's carpets first entered China in the past as tribute or through trade. Historical records note that right at the beginning of the Shang Dynasty (1766 B.C.) the minister of that time decreed that Xinjiang should send a yearly tribute of carpets to the Shang emperor, and much later on, during the reign of the Liang emperor Datong (535-546 A.D.), the King of Gaochang (Turpan) sent carpets as tribute to the Southern Dynasties. Nowadays, in the Weaving and Embroidery Section of the Palace Museum in Beijing, there are piles of high quality costly knotted-pile carpets, silk carpets and gold- and silver-threaded carpets, which were all sent in tribute to the Qing imperial court. As for carpet trading between Xinjiang and China, historical references abound. During the Tang Dynasty when the Silk Road was at its height of importance, a special carpet emporium was set up in the capital Chang'an which dealt solely in felt mats from the Western Region. When trade was established between Gaochang (Turpan) and Central China during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the special emporium began to deal in silk carpets from all parts of the northwest. Carpet weaving techniques from Xinjiang were also introduced to China along with carpets, and served to stimulate interest in carpet making, so that by the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), carpets were being commonly produced in many regions throughout China. At that time a Uygur carpet weaver, Matuo Ahung, was invited by the Muslims of Ningxia to come to Yinzbou and pass on his skills in person to group after group of apprentice weavers, who in turn would take on their own apprentices. As a result the skill of carpet weaving blossomed all over Ningxia and the surrounding regions, and Matuo Ahung today lies buried under a commemorative pagoda in the city of Yinzhou, honored as the founding father' of carpet weaving in Ningxia. Xinjiang's carpet industry began to take great strides forward at the beginning of this century, and by now there are 60 carpet weaving factories and workshops staffed by over 5,000 craftsmen, plus an additional 15,000 or more part-time workers. At best, Xinjiang can produce up to I70,000 square meters of carpet in one year. Exports continue to rise steadily, and at present Xinjiang's carpets are sold in more than 20 different countries, with over 10,000 square meters of carpet sent for export in 1983. Foreign and overseas Chinese visitors to Xinjiang are more than pleased to purchase a high-quality carpet, and friends all over the world praise Xinjiang's carpets as "the symbol of Chinese art and culture."