November 10, 2013
The Dragon Chasing the Horse - Or Was It the Other Way Around?" Chinese and Tibetan Saddle Rugs
Koos de Jong

Some pictures
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Absorbing and emulating the horse-riding culture of the nomadic peoples on their Northwest borders, the Chinese were among the earliest peoples to create practical, and beautiful, textiles and tack for their horses. From before the 5th century A.D., in contrast to large-boned European horses, which hauled battle equipment for the Romans and carried very heavily-armored knights, Chinese horses were ridden for speed and quick maneuvering in battle, as well as for crossing vast expanses of the Eurasian steppes. This led to the development of lightweight and decorative saddle rugs, both flat-woven types, as well as pile-woven rugs adorned with traditional Chinese, Mongolian and and Tibetan motifs.

Koos de Jong has recently published an extensive study of the history of these textiles in his new book, Dragon & Horse. Saddle Rugs and Other Horse Tack from China and Beyond. His talk dealt with "saddle rugs," i.e., under- and top-saddle rugs, saddle flaps and horse-blankets, made of felt, flat-woven textiles, leather, and pile-knotted wool, silk and cotton. He also discussed how saddle rugs can be properly dated and ascribed to their place of origin. The lecture was based on the outcome of the author’s research into representations of saddle rugs in Chinese painting and sculpture as well as in the applied arts. However, this talk also considered questions like: How "Chinese" are these rugs?. It also covered results of ongoing research since the book's publication.

Koos de Jong graduated in art history, medieval archaeology and archival science at the University of Amsterdam in 1976. He has been active since 1976 successively as the scientific staff-member at the Historical Museum in Amsterdam, director of the Provincial Overijssels Museum in Zwolle, vice-director and chief-curator at the Netherlands Office for Fine Arts in The Hague, director of the Zaanse Schans and Zaans Museum in Zaanstad, and director of the European Ceramic Work Centre in Den Bosch. Drs. De Jong is the author of hundreds of articles and several books about: the pewterer’s guild in medieval Amsterdam, the Dutch medieval interior, medieval sculpture, modern architecture, the Dutch painters Jan Sierhuis and Anton Martineau, modern ceramics, design and architecture, and Chinese carpets. Since his retirement in 2009 he has remained active as a researcher and publicist in the field of Oriental art, and is a private collector of Chinese art and Oriental carpets.

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