The carpet features a tiger pelt, its underbelly stretched out to form a red and ragged contour along two sides; the head, front paws, hind legs and tail are arranged symmetrically. Immensely appealing in design, this tiger carpet is one of several published examples in which a degree of realism prevails. Tiger pelts and carpets woven in their likeness were, upon occasion, the symbols of secular power. The photograph of Tibetan Agriculture Minister Sonam Rabten Ringang seated on a tiger pelt (fig. 2, introduction) demonstrates the allure of such trappings of power. Ringang was among the officials who went to meet the 14th Dalai Lama when the young boy was recognized as the previous Dalai Lama's reincarnation. He made a considerable impression on Spencer Chapman, who described him as "the very embodiment of Falstaff. He is of enormous size, and is perpetually out of breath and perspiring. His face is continuously wreathed in smiles, and he is the champion drinker of chang in all Tibet, having the rare and enviable accomplishment of being able to pour a glass of beer straight down his throat without swallowing." Clearly, the tiger pelt or its woven likeness was a preferred seat for an empowered individual.
Published: Robert Thurman and David Weldon, Sacred Symbols: The Ritual Art of Tibet, no. 50, pp. 110-11.