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Miao man soldering success with silver sales

China Daily| Updated: 2021-12-15 Print


Silverware made by the Miao ethnic group is on display in a store in Danzhai county, Guizhou province. [Photo by YANG WUKUI/FOR CHINA DAILY]

A silver bracelet has made its way across China after traveling from a Miao ethnic town in the southwestern province of Guizhou to the Inner Mongolia autonomous region in North China.

The bracelet came from the "silver street" of Kaili city. There are nearly 100 silversmith shops along the street. Ethnic silver ornaments produced there, such as necklaces and bracelets, are popular among tourists.

Zhang Yongfu, a silversmith in his 40s, melted a silver bar and poured it into a mold. When it cooled down, he forged, carved and polished it. About six hours later, a glamorous bracelet weighing 80 grams was "created".

Instead of being put in a display window, it was immediately packaged in a gift box and handed to a deliveryman. It will be the farthest distance traveled by any product in Zhang's shop.

The bracelet's journey actually began in a livestreaming studio a few days before. Zhang, the son of a Miao silversmith family, showcased his skills in front of a smartphone screen while his business partner was promoting his products.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and plummeting tourism, silversmiths had to find a way to sell their products. The fast-growing livestreaming e-commerce method was a solution.

His apprentice Pan Xue, a Miao woman born in 1997, taught him video-filming skills and how to do livestreaming with his traditional ornaments. Zhang and Pan sometimes appear together to present exquisite ornaments during livestreams or in short videos.

They received more than 500 orders worth 115,680 yuan ($18,000) within two months in spring last year.

Zhang became a fan of livestreaming and started shooting videos himself. He has become used to livestreaming almost every day and trying to be creative because he knows his followers will drop by his online studio to say hi.

This September, his income totaled more than 48,000 yuan, equivalent to what he used to earn in six months in the past.

Not long ago, he took a lease on a new storefront not far from his shop and hired two more silversmiths to deal with online orders.

Zhang started learning from his uncle at 13 years old. Miao men usually do silverwork to support their families during the slack season in farming in winter. But thanks to e-commerce, there is no slack season for the silver business.

"Miao people have a long history of wearing silver ornaments. They are not just pretty, they are also our cultural symbols. I'm glad to see more and more customers all over the country like our ornaments," Zhang said.

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