A small circular auspiciously designed carpet from the Baotou-Suiyuan region of Inner Mongolia. Five bats – the ‘Wu Fu’ or ‘five blessings’ – surround the central Shou design, which itself is a Chinese symbol for longevity. The five bats in this design arrangement therefor represent the five blessings of longevity; i.e. virtue, good health, comfortable wealth, long life and a peaceful death. This design could thus be interpreted as bestowing on it’s owner both happiness and a long life (see more below under the title ‘symbolism‘). The pile is worn in parts as seen in the photo, but the carpet is stable and has no repairs, and has at some point in its life been edged with a thin strip of blue cotton textile to to protect the edges from any unraveling / fraying. (NOTE: if that cotton edging is pealed back slightly underneath it can be seen that the rug was intentionally woven as is, i.e. circular, and is not just a ‘repurposed / remade’ fragment of a larger rug). It was made towards the end of Qing Dynasty, that is circa 1900, and the round shape and small size is rather atypical and seldom seen coming from the region it was woven in.
SYMBOLISM: How a bat is depicted actually contributes to its meaning, which is typically delivered through wordplay. The Chinese word for bat is “fu” and the word for happiness is also pronounced “fu”. In Chinese culture a group of five bats holds auspicious meaning, known as Wu Fu or Five Blessings; which are health, long life, prosperity, love of virtue, and a tranquil natural death. Often – as on this carpet – they are depicted encircling a stylised calligraph known as the ‘Shou’ symbol, which is the Chinese symbol for longevity.