Early on the morning of December 12, 2012, Wang Hengfan and Zhao Yuanmin began removing finished pottery from a kiln in Guanyao Town, Qichun County of Hubei Province. The kiln was built more than 600 years ago along the hillside, stretching over 60 meters like a dragon down to a cave, which inspired its name.
Located along the northern bank of the Yangtze River and next to Chixi Lake, Guanyao has long been famous for its pottery. “Guanyao is one of the three major pottery producers in Hubei,” explains Wang, director of Li’s Dragon Kiln. In 1987, the township was dubbed the Provincial Home of Pottery Ware, and in 2007 the craftsmanship was listed as Hubei Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Guanyao’s pottery production peaked in the 1990s, when over 10,000 people were engaged in the trade. Today, of seven surviving dragon kilns over 100 years old, four still operate. Among the kilns’ oldest artisans is 73-year-old Li Chonghua, who became an apprentice at the age of 13.
“The highlights of this traditional craft are manual, extremely technical and highly intense,” illustrates Master Li. “Today, only six people in my kiln can still do it, and they are all over 60. Who will carry on this craftsmanship when they retire?”?