Traditional Tibetan Rugs - artelino

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Home Articles Tibetan Rugs Symbols in Tibetan Rugs - artelino

Symbols in Tibetan Rugs - artelino

Snow Lion - Tibetan rug.The symbols of Tibetan rugs are mostly of Buddhist origin. Others, such as many animal depictions, have their roots in the mythology of Tibet.

All symbols in traditional Tibetan rugs have in common that they are auspicious - even those horribly looking beings like the thunder dragon or tiger.


Phoenix and Tibetan rug.The Phoenix bird stands for eternal life, charity, peace and prosperity for mankind.

The Phoenix is shown either single or together with the dragon. Dragon and Phoenix stand for the duality of Male and Female, or for the King and Queen or Emperor and Empress.

Lotus Flowers

Lotus Flowers and Tibetan rugsAccording to the legend, Padmasambhava emerged from a lotus flower. Lotus stands in Buddhism for purity. The lotus symbol is found in all Buddhist cultures.

The White Tara is always shown with a Lotus on her left shoulder.

The Lotus has variations in its meaning depending on the color that it adopts. And there is furthermore a distinction between the lotus at night ( 'utpala' and blue color) and during the day ( 'padma'). Buddhist symbolism can be quite complex.

Snow Lion

Snow lion and Tibetan rugs.According to the Tibetan mythology the snow lion comes from the East, namely from China. This animal represents the dualism of secular and spiritual power.

Since the 19th century the snow lion is the national symbol of Tibetans and the animal emblem on the flag of Tibet.


Tigers and Tibetan rugs.According to the Tibetan mythology the tiger comes from the south, thus from India; which makes some sense. Tigers embody power and a balanced mind.

The tiger is shown either alive or as a tiger skin. In the first version, he is often depicted strolling in a bamboo forest. As a tiger skin, he is shown either with full head and paws or as a striped pattern in near abstraction. For more read our article about Tibetan tiger rugs.


Swastika design symbol on Tibetan rugs.

Swastika is an ancient Buddhist symbol. It means eternal happiness. The swastika symbol is found on Tibetan carpets, either as single border motif, or in the form of a circular medallion, or sometimes in the four corners of a carpet.

Both in Buddhism and Hinduism, the swastika symbol is seen as a sign of the law. In Sanskrit, the word 'swasti' means 'well being'.

Thunder Dragon

Thunder Dragon on Tibetan rug.Thunder dragons are benevolent beings. They dominate the oceans and the rain. Usually they keep in their clutches the Buddhist treasure jewel. This symbolizes that they are flying through the air. The state of flying is underlined on Tibetan carpets by stylized clouds.

With the jewels in his hands, the dragon is also a gifted weather maker. By pressing the jewel he can produce rain. And depending on the pressure that the dragon exerts, the result may vary from a light shower to a large rain storm.


Vase on Tibetan rug.Vases are sources of life. At least for the flowers, that is unquestionable.

If you are interested in traditional Tibetan rugs, take a look at our Tibetan rug gallery.

Dieter Wanczura
(January 2009)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 November 2010 14:37  

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