A so-called ‘General Ma’ or ‘Big Horse Ma’ (also an army general) carpet most likely made in Khotan, or, a remote possibility, Yarkand; both once carpet weaving oasis’s in Xinjiang province (old East Turkestan) in south western China. As the legend goes, General Ma had these carpets made for his troops / followers in the 1930’s. The Chinese writing in the roundels is read from either end, that is one set ideograms will always be upside down no matter which way you look at the carpet – although one of the photos above shows both ideograms right-way-up as it were; but what do the inscriptions actually say / mean? (The translation of same seems open to some debate, the most recent – in Hali 136 – suggesting it reads “in memory of (the occupation of) Khotan“, which contradicts and earlier interpretation – in Hali #44.) The designs throughout the pile are made using only two primary colours, that is natural white wool and various shades of blue dyed wool, and has a lovely subtle abrash throughout the blue field. it has a main outer border interspersed with flowers and what appear to possibly be stylised shou motifs, along with several secondary inner borders, altogether there are nine border ‘strips’ in all. (As stated above, see page 16 & 17, Hali magazine #44, 1989; and page 69 in Hali magazine #136, 2004 for the full story behind this type of carpet and the different views on the meaning of the inscriptions.) If you can get your hands on either article from the Hali magazines regards ‘General Ma’ and his carpets then either is certainly worth a read, as the character – General Ma – was an actual person, as were his exploits. Be that as it may, whatever the ideograms may imply / mean, it is a fine carpet with its own genuine niche in the military history of China.