An Odd Visual Effect in a Tibetan Rug

Daniel Miller, the long-time Himalayan “ranger,” and editor of the volume “Auspicious Carpets,” on Tibetan weavings (that you can buy in hard copy or as a read on the internet),

writes about an odd visual effect in a Tibetan rug he owns.

Here is an image of this rug, straight on.


Now this seems unremarkable: a nice Tibetan rug with a checkerboard design.

But look at this image that Dan also sends.


Dan says in his note:

Have you ever seen a carpet do this?  

This is an older Tibetan rug I picked up in Beijing in 1998.  A simple geometric with two shades of blue.  Worn out a bit and frayed on the edges, but still a nice rug.

When you look at it from a certain angle, it does this geometric “thing” on you and transforms into something not seen before.
I had it on my floor for like 5 months in my apartment in Beijing and then, suddenly, I was sitting in a certain place and saw the change in the design of the carpet that appeared when you see it from the right angle.  Is there a message there?  I mean I had the carpet right there every day, walking over, looking at it, and only when sitting in the proper position one day five months later did it reveal its other aspect!
Kind of cool, huh?   Perhaps some kind of Tibetan tantric textile thing……………………
Can you ask any of your “ruggie” friends if they have seen this type of “transformation” before in a geometric carpet?

At first, I thought it might be something possible to see in almost any Tibetan checkerboard rug, so I asked around a little with some folks experienced in Tibetan textiles.

Some have said they’ve not see such an effect in a Tibetan checkerboard design before.   One said that he’s seen it “lots of times,” without indicating why it might occur.
I wondered whether it might be reproducible using Photoshop manipulation.

So I sent a similar Tibetan checkerboard design to Wendel Swan and he skewed it electronically.

Negative result: he could not produce the visual effects visible in the image above, so Dan Miller’s question stands.

Has anyone reading this seen a similar effect in a Tibetan checkerboard rug (or other rug for that matter)?  And even if you have not, do you have an explanation for why it occurs in this case?

Please send responses to me, at, or to Dan Miller, at
If shareable, we will share the results with this reader population in a separate post.


As we were about to send this out Robert Piccus, who has written a much-praised book on Tibetan Rugs, sent Dan this email message:

Dear Dan,

 Happy New Year.

 Your rug is fascinating. As you say the two photos are as of two different rugs. I have never seen anything so dramatic. One of my pieces (Plate 93 in my book) has some optical illusion effect but nothing so striking. Your point whether there is some message is interesting. We sort of think of these rugs as being produced by not particularly sophisticated or mystical weavers but who knows. To my mind so much as we try there is in fact so little we (or I) really know and understand about that country (Tibet).

 Best wishes,


Anyone else?


R. John Howe

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