Guangxi revives traditional Chinese pottery

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2016-06-12 17:10:59

Guangxi revives traditional Chinese pottery

A Zhuang pottery with chrysanthemum pattern. [File photo]

One of the four major styles of Chinese pottery, "nixing", is making a comeback in south China after years of neglect.

On Saturday, Cultural Heritage Day, a restored 600-year-old kiln was fired up again in Qinzhou city, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. The kiln was built to make nixing pottery, a craft with a history of more than 1,300 years. The style relies on a unique local clay and the colors of the pots emerge without the addition of any pigment.

In 1915, a nixing vase depicting a pastoral mountain scene won a gold medal at an exhibition in Los Angeles, but the craft has been under pressure in recent years due to a lack of young inheritors.

"Making nixing pottery takes a lot of time and patience. Young people just do not see any future in it," said Wang Hongfei, who runs a ceramics studio.

"When I started learning, there were 28 students in my class," Wang said. "After graduation, only eight went into the business."

According to Li Renping, 70, a highly-regarded potter and teacher, it takes three to five years to become a professional potter, and that scares many people away.

"Making the pottery is very difficult. Very few people want to spend years working in a small studio to learn the craft," said Li. "If one is not meticulous at each stage in the rigorous process -- mixing the clay, carving, firing and polishing -- it is a waste of time."

At the beginning of this century, only a few small workshops were left, struggling to keep the industry alive, until the government stepped in to help the art return to its former glory. On China's intangible cultural heritage list since 2008, a number of new schools have been established, along with regular seminars, exhibitions and other promotions.

The government started work on a nixing pottery garden in Qinzhou in 2012. Still under construction, the garden mixes tourism and industry in an area of some 180 hectares.

"We plan to create more courses for these time-honored skills to ensure our culture and history are not lost," said Qin Bin, head of Guangxi education department.

Last year, Guangxi gave 24 million yuan (about $3.7 million) to 17 colleges specializing in traditional crafts. Now, at least 160 companies and workshops specialize in local ceramics and their products reach fans in the United States, Europe and Japan. More than 10,000 people now work in an industry worth more than 500 million yuan each year.

"A good craftsman can make 10,000 yuan a month these days, which is attracting more people," said Li. "I see a bright future for our revitalized art."

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