Ancient porcelain-making town regains vitality with tourism development

Nowadays, the town boasts a combination of historical flavor and modern lifestyle.

Zhang Xue is sitting in a cafe, enjoying a cup of coffee while working with a laptop. Outside the window of the cafe, several ancient round kilns stand quietly besides a sagger wall with mottled burn marks.

Zhang, a returned overseas student, is now working at a tourism development company in Guyao Village of Yanshen ancient town in Zibo City, east China's Shandong Province.

The town, once bustling with porcelain-making industries, has experienced fluctuating fortunes over time, and is now regaining vitality thanks to the development of tourism.

Since the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), local residents in the town relied on porcelain making to earn a living. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the iconic Shandong Boshan porcelain factory was set up in the area and nearly all households there were engaged in the industry.

However, with the porcelain and glaze industry transforming from relying on manual labor to machines, many workshops and old kilns were abandoned and the porcelain factory was closed down. Many local people left the area, leaving the place in desolation.

The Yanshen ancient town has 13 abandoned ancient round kilns and about 5,000 square meters of closed porcelain factory buildings. These old constructions have become a new asset for the area today.

In 2018, the government of Zibo City started to promote investment to develop the ancient town, aiming to create a resort featuring porcelain-related culture.

"The town has unique cultural and historical endowment," said Wu Jiangyan, General Manager of Zibo Langxiang Guyao Village Tourism Development Co Ltd. The company has been working to repair and restore the ancient constructions while establishing modern service facilities.

Zhang Xue was born in Zibo, and her father and grandparents once worked in the porcelain industry. After returning home from Italy in September 2020, she joined the company, hoping to help her hometown secure a new life.

Nowadays, the town boasts a combination of historical flavor and modern lifestyle.

The stone roads, ancient kilns, old factory houses and other old architecture are attracting visitors with a distinctive local style, while the newly opened bars, cafes and hostels are breathing new life into the ancient town.

At a former workshop of the porcelain factory, people can walk through a tunnel kiln where the old bricks and mottled walls are well-preserved.

Inside an old house, some college students are busy molding and glazing porcelain objects, as the town has been serving as a training base for some colleges.

"Besides offering leisure and recreation, the town also expects to offer a taste of the art of porcelain making and a glimpse into the past glory of the local porcelain industry," Zhang said.

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