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    Paper trail leads to profits for remote township

    XINHUA | Updated: 2021-07-14 07:46
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    HEFEI-In a workshop, laborers pound Blue Sandalwood bark and rice straw to fiber, before using a cloth to filter out impurities and dust in a bid to finally attain a clean, white pulp.

    These are essential steps in the manufacture of delicate, long-lasting Xuan paper, traditionally used for Chinese calligraphy and painting. It is mainly produced in Dingjiaqiao, a landlocked township in East China's Anhui province.

    Dingjiaqiao has a 1,000-year history of producing the paper. In 2009, the process of making Xuan paper was added to UNESCO's world intangible cultural heritage list.

    Today, with its popularity both at home and abroad, Xuan paper has become an important source of income for residents of the township that is home to over 200 Xuan paper manufacturers.

    Zhang Yueling, 47, has a job packing and shipping the paper for one of them. She is one of over 10,000 people in the township engaged in the Xuan paper industry.

    She returned to her hometown 10 years ago, after a period away working in a city, to take better care of her child and her elderly parents. Zhang found the job, which was near her home, and earns about 3,000 yuan ($464) a month.

    "It's much more convenient working here," says Zhang, who previously worked as a waitress, adding that her husband and brother also work in local Xuan paper enterprises.

    As China's largest production base for the paper, Dingjiaqiao produces numerous types of Xuan paper, bringing in an annual sales revenue of over 1.5 billion yuan. Some products are exported to countries including Japan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia.

    Wang Juling, sales manager of Anhui Changchun Paper Co Ltd, says the firm's export revenue reaches approximately 20 million yuan a year, accounting for one-fifth of total sales.

    Established in 1985, the company developed from a small, family-run workshop to a major manufacturer with stores across China, and, according to Wang, is eyeing an expansion into overseas markets.

    E-commerce has also fueled local sales.

    Cao Yang, 26, who's in charge of e-commerce at another Xuan paper company, returned to Dingjiaqiao from Hangzhou, an e-commerce hub in East China's Zhejiang province, several years ago.

    "We deliver over 500 parcels each day. Annual e-commerce sales were over 5 million yuan last year and keep rising," says Cao.

    By the end of 2019, more than 500 business entities in Dingjiaqiao were engaged in e-commerce, achieving a total annual sales revenue of approximately 200 million yuan.

    For Cao, e-commerce offers more opportunities and possibilities for this traditional craft. His company also designs and produces many creative products related to Xuan paper, including fans and scrolls, to meet the modern demands of the market.

    "As more experienced migrants return to Dingjiaqiao, the township has seen a growing number of milk tea shops, cake shops and cars, which offer us a glimpse into the vitality and influence of this intangible cultural heritage in the modern era," says Cao.

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