Potters in a village of Nyishar township in the mostly Tibetan-inhabited city of Shangri-La, Southwest China's Yunnan province, are still utilizing the techniques of their ancient forefathers to make black pottery.
They squeeze and knead lumps of clay into different shapes, and then put all the pieces together to make a wide variety of ceramics with traditional wooden tools.
The art of firing black pottery, a national-level intangible cultural heritage, has now become a draw for tourists and an engine for the local economy.
Fifty-year-old Tamdrin Bichu, an inheritor of the time-honored pottery-making techniques, has been busy making black pottery wares, as well as providing an authentic black pottery experience to visitors from all over the world.
Various black pottery wares, from cups to pots, are displayed in his workshop, where he said he has received about 2,000 guests this year despite the COVID-19 epidemic.
Orders from across the country and even abroad have also reached this humble village.
There are more than 160 households in the village, and about 120 people from over 90 families are now engaged in the production of black pottery, said Li Zhao, deputy head of the township government.
Tamdrin Bichu's 28-year-old son Larong Shoba followed his father's footsteps in becoming an artisan after graduating from university.
Young, ambitious and creative, Larong Shoba built a team of eight to manage a workshop and open a black-pottery-themed cafe.
He now plans to include more traditional handicraft skills in his itineraries for tourists.
"We are trying to use local papermaking skills to produce packaging for our black pottery," Larong Shoba said, adding that these local products share similar characteristics and cultural backgrounds, making them a perfect match.
He said he can make about 100,000 yuan (about $14,900) every year on the back of the black pottery trade.
Currently, the revenue from tourism amounts to about 60 percent of the total annual income of local people in the village, according to Li.
Larong Bichu, a 36-year-old businessman from the village, sniffed out opportunities brought by the increasing number of visitors.
His resort is scheduled to open in April next year, and is aimed at providing high-end services to customers, including making black pottery, tasting authentic local cuisine, and enjoying Tibetan medicated baths.
With about 20 rooms, his resort will not only provide accommodation to visitors but also create jobs for locals.
"Now we have such a good opportunity, we should stick together and boost the rural tourism sector," he said.
Li said great changes have taken place in the village in recent years with the thriving tourism industry. "We have no dilapidated buildings in the village any more, paths made of cement can reach every single family, and no kids in the village drop out of school."
In August, the village was announced as one of the country's major villages of rural tourism.
Li said for the next step, efforts will be focused on cultivating more skilled workers, introducing investment from other places, and strengthening the infrastructure in the village.
Larong Bichu thinks that beefing up rural tourism in the village is transforming his hometown for the better, for it can improve locals' quality of life, increase the number of skilled workers and create employment opportunities.
He is also optimistic about the village's future prospects. "I think there will be 40,000 to 50,000 people coming to our village every year in the future."