Rugs of this format were intended to be wrapped around the pillars in Buddhist temples so that the designs joined to form a continuous pattern. The drawing of the dragon in the present lot is particularly imposing as he writhes across the field in pursuit of the flaming pearl that remains for ever just out of reach. It is believed that these pieces were woven by Muslim weavers throughout the nineteenth century in the province of Ningxia in China, although most were destined for monasteries within Mongolia or Tibet. Along with the stylised clouds and decorative ornate pelmet as seen here, the dragon would often be surrounded by a number of Buddhist symbols such as 'the knot of destiny', the wheel, conch shell, fish and lotus flower.
The drawing of the head of this dragon is very similar to that on a pair of pillar rugs published by Charles Grant Ellis, Oriental Carpets in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, London 1988, pl.73, p.272 and a similar but longer example sold recently in The Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, Part V, Christie's New York, 21 March 2015, lot 21. At over 17 feet, that example was noted as having been reduced in length, which illustrates the height of which some of the temples reached.