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illustration 4

With little deviation all Turkmen grid-gol format weavings have main gol that are divided into four quadrants, the two diagonally opposed outer sections having identical colored background, as seen in this example where they are orange and white.

This fragment, which is an archaic period Tekke torba, displays a quite specific version of what has become known as the torba gol - so named because it seems to almost exclusively appear on Tekke torba. That said, it does very infrequently show up on archaic period large format torba, the occasional chuval, and even more rarely on a group of not so old small size marriage rugs.

The visual effect of dividing a gol into four quadrants is amplified by the additional color play the several concentric layers of quartering provide. There must have been some important reason for this and, while it obviously adds a significant amount of depth and perspective we would like to suggest another demonstrated by some of the early Central Asian textiles in our target group.

illustration 5

The two opposed Buddah on this silk textile are shown seated on lotus flowers growing on a stalk surrounded on both sides by curled stalks with leaves and lotus buds. According to the British Museum’s description, this painted textile was supposedly folded in half and used as a banner or flag, making the Buddah visible on both sides.

We might offer some objection to this but, regardless of whether it was originally used in this manner or not, the concept of duality it expresses is undeniable and one prevalent throughout all periods of Chinese culture.

This is often described in western literature as ying/yang and implies dichotomy -- for instance good/bad, light/dark, old/young. However this is a rather simplistic interpretation of the true concept of duality, which is far more involved than just opposites. It also long predates the idea of ying/yang, which apparently was an invention of, and popularized during, the Ming Dynasty.

Basically ying/yang was abbreviated from the far more archaic and complex concept of duality, known as the dynamic balance of opposites, that was developed as part of Chinese cosmology and philosophy.

Viewing the universe and everything in it as dynamic and balanced was, to say the least, pervasive in all eastern and western Asian cultures and traditions, not only Chinese. It is this rational of a dynamic and balanced universe that appears to have provided an underlying conceptual basis for the two Buddah on this 10th century AD textile, and somewhat later to be taken up by the Turkmen -- the opposing color juxtaposition found in their main gol a primary example of this dynamic balance of opposites.

Fact is nothing is known about the methodology or content of ancient secular and non-secular Turkmen belief systems, but it is clear the Turkmen lived in relative close proximity to the silk road as was mentioned earlier.

This, among many other factors, undoubtedly affected how their material and spiritual culture developed, and certain aspects of Chinese cosmology and philosophy, like the important dynamic balance of opposites, and other silk road cultural concepts no doubt became imbedded in Turkmen thought. It is therefore perfectly understandable and obvious to see this inheritance expressed in the most significant part, the main gol, of the most significant artwork, the knotted pile carpet, made by Turkmen people.

It is quite surprising no other writer or researcher has suggested this, or even wondered why almost every main gol displayed on the rugs of every Turkmen group follows this prescription and is divided into four quadrants with opposing color juxtaposition.

The British Museum’s Buddah textile also exhibits another feature that played an important role in Turkmen culture that is discussed in the description below.

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