Web access puts Huamao potters back on the map

Updated 2017-12-03 17:30:56 China Daily
A potter in Huamao village in Zunyi, Guizhou province makes a ceramic container. Local potters increased their sales and income by promoting their products online. LUO XINGHAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

A potter in Huamao village in Zunyi, Guizhou province makes a ceramic container. Local potters increased their sales and income by promoting their products online. LUO XINGHAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

A potter in a remote village in Guizhou province ended decades of low sales and saw his products attract customers nationwide using the internet.

Huamao village in one of China's most underdeveloped provinces is rich in clay and has been home to pottery makers since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

When Moutai, a high-end Chinese liquor brand, won a gold medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, the liquor was contained in clay pots manufactured in Huamao.

Mu Xiangang's family has been making clay pottery for generations, but their workshop didn't offer them a decent living, with the nine-member family having to survive on an annual income of less than 10,000 yuan (,520).

"Dozens of workshops lined the street in the 1950s, but it was too difficult to feed the family by selling pottery," said Mu from his family workshop in Huamao.

The products were not easy to sell even for as little as 50 yuan. So many gave up, while Mu's family struggled to keep the business running, the 50-year-old craftsman added.

But things changed when they started marketing their products online.

Chen Yong, an official with the provincial prosecuting authority stationed in the village in 2015, decided to promote the ceramics online, as he saw great market potential.

"How could such a beautiful craft stay hidden in this mountainous village for so long. I thought they'd be warmly welcomed by customers all over the country if they were sold online," he said.

The Huamao Internet Plus service center opened in 2015 and displayed more than 170 local products, including Mu's pottery.

Since then, Mu has seen sales steadily increase. In 2015, his business revenue exceeded 200,000 yuan. Last year, to further expand the business, Mu started his own online pottery shop.

"I never imagined I could make 20,000 yuan a month through the online store. It's far more than I used to earn in a whole year. It feels like a dream," he said.

Zhou Chengjun, Party chief of Huamao, said the village was equipped with full Wi-Fi coverage last year, providing free access to all villagers to boost online sales of local products, such as Chinese liquor and paper goods.

"Huamao is surrounded by mountains and hills, and poverty drove many farmers to look for work in big cities in search of a better life," he said.

Now, with the sale of local products booming, more migrant workers have returned, and the number of those leaving has decreased from more than 2,000 to about 300 this year, he added.

"Our village was once called Huangmaotian, which literally means a desolate and uninhabited place where only grass grows. We changed the name to Huamao, a symbol of prosperity and success, and it has really worked," Mu said.

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