CHONGQING, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Inside a small shop in Rongchang District, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, a three-in-one tea set in the shape of a pickle jar demonstrates the changing image of local ceramics -- from kitchen utensils to delicate artworks.
Designed by Zheng Yingqiao, a 28-year-old pottery artist, together with the Soochow University, the "jar" has its lid as a teacup, its body being a tea pitcher, and a tea strainer contained within.
"It represents the past and present of the Rongchang Pottery: the pickle jar used to be the classic image of the pottery, while the teapot is the latest trend," Zheng said.
Dating back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), Rongchang Pottery is known as one of four famous pottery styles in China. But in recent history, the pottery was mostly made into jars for pickled vegetables, hardly making it a favorite of artists and collectors.
To manage the image of the ancient craft and increase its added value, the local government has stepped up measures to attract young talents with rent exemptions and skills training.
Zheng, a Rongchang local, is one of the returning artists. After majoring in sculpture in college, she joined a pottery studio in Yixing, another pottery center in east China's Jiangsu Province. Encouraged by her hometown's campaign to revive its pottery industry, she returned in 2019.
She learned from a local pottery artist for a year. "He didn't charge me any tuition fees. The atmosphere is good here," said Zheng.
Over 30 young artists like Zheng have settled on the pottery-themed street. They inject new dynamics into pottery designs, such as sculpture, painting, and calligraphy.
Some young artists are pursuing a richer color expression. Guan Yongshuang, 32, has been studying pottery culture for nearly ten years. He is working on turning plant ashes, such as chestnut shells and ginkgo leaves, into natural glazes for pottery.
"Pottery is like painting, with clay being the paper, wood fuels being the ink, and plant ashes being the pigment," said Guan. "All these things are from nature. So I wish to continue observing and expressing nature via pottery."
Other young practitioners regard pottery as a hobby and a respite from their frazzling urban lives.
After working for a design company in Shanghai for years, Liang Chaoyi returned to Rongchang to learn pottery at the end of 2021. In May, she opened a cafe and pottery shop on the street, attracting many young visitors.
"Many young people are attracted here by the coffee and the pottery-making experiences. For me, it's like a break from the hectic life in cities," said Liang, who makes coffee mugs from traditional pottery kilns.
"I can also sense the young artists' passion for pottery here. This new generation of artists is inheriting and developing the Rongchang Pottery in their own ways."
More than 100 pottery studios have opened in the district alongside over 200 pottery companies. In 2022, the output value of major pottery companies surpassed 8 billion yuan (1.1 billion U.S. dollars). The figure is expected to reach over 9 billion yuan this year. ■