Tipping the balance in favor of traditional craftsmanship

By Zhu Lixin and Ma Chenguang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-03-18 09:25:54

Tipping the balance in favor of traditional craftsmanship

Liu Guangcui runs a steelyard shop in Xiaomiao township in Hefei. The woman continues to practice the traditional craft of making the balances, which she learned from her father, despite shrinking demand for handmade steelyards.[Photo provided to China Daily]

As the oldest daughter in her family, Liu inherited her father's business and opened a workshop in 1990.

In the first years of her business, there were many buyers of steelyards, she says. The prices back then averaged 10 yuan ($1.54).

The steelyards were also considered important for locals.

"Since steelyards are used to measure how much you harvest (among other things), Chinese people treasure them very much and hope they bring good luck."

During the Spring Festival, people often paste a piece of red paper with the characters huang jin wan liang ("thousands of kilograms of gold") on their steelyards, hoping for a good harvest in the new year, according to Liu.

The peak time for Liu's business came in the 1990s, when she was able to make several such steelyards and sell as many as 10 a day with the help of her husband, who had migrated to the city years before.

Liu's younger sister is in the same business in nearby Changfeng county. Their father didn't permit their younger brother to inherit the business as he wanted his son to receive a good education and have a different career. Besides Liu and her sister, their father taught the craft to six others, who ran their own businesses for several years before quitting.

"Nowadays there is just no need to hurry anymore," says Liu, who also started to sell electronic scales in 2008, when she moved her shop to a new street in Xiaomiao township.

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