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Uygur pottery faces extinction due to lack of successors


Updated: 2015-07-10 17:22:06

URUMQI - Tursunkhari Zunun, a six-generation Uygur potter, is pleased to see the continued success of his family's traditional clay crafts in the city of Kashgar, China's western-most city, where his works are the top souvenir.

But his fortune comes tainted with sadness, as Zunun, 60, frets over who will inherit his family's 400-year-old techniques.

"My three daughters are married and my son is studying at a police college," he said. "None of them will inherit my skills."

Zunun has advertised in local newspapers, recruiting apprentices and offering a salary but nobody has stayed long. He teaches young students at vocational schools, but they prefer learning how to make naan bread, a popular local delicacy.

Machines replicating the traditional methods are making things even worse.

"Industrialized ceramic products have made Uygur pottery no longer a daily necessity for the locals," said Zunun, adding that many pottery craftsmen have left the business.

Most of the remaining craftsmen all use electricity or natural gas to drive the wheel, the machine used in the shaping the round ceramic wares, mass producing the pottery and making more profits, he said.

"My pottery is primitive, without any modern technology involved," said Zunun, stepping on a pedal to power a belt-driven wooden wheel in his centuries-old ancestral workshop.

Modern technology has made antique pottery lose its earthy beauty, said Zunun, who is torn over whether to continue using the traditional way of production or adapt to modern times.

For the time-being, recognition and appreciation from tourists have convinced him to continue following his predecessors' approach.

"Tourists from the inland provinces, Japan and Republic of Korea (ROK)are fond of my pottery," he said, "museum and folk-custom experts ask me to hold on my belief."

Zunun does not put a specific price on his pottery products, which has helped him earn a name.

"The buyers can decide the price they pay as long as they appreciate my craft," said Zunun, who keeps on making novel pottery using the traditional craft.

Although Zunun has no offspring to inherit his craft, two apprentices from ROK have been studying in his workshop for two years.

"I gave them Uygur names and they are my disciples," he said.

"I do not care if I teach locals or foreigners. As long as they learn the ancient craft and keep my pottery in people's life, I will be kept in history."