JINGDEZHEN (China) — China’s “Porcelain Capital” Jingdezhen is attracting droves of young people drawn to the city of artisans in search of an escape from the urban rat race among its ceramics workshops.
The picturesque eastern city home to China’s best-known porcelain has seen an influx of young professionals seeking to learn an ancient art taught there for more than a thousand years.
Times are tough for young people in China, with youth unemployment at record highs, sluggish economic growth and, for many, the opportunities their parents’ generation enjoyed are simply not attainable.
But in Jingdezhen they find something different: low rent, a slower pace of life and a proximity to nature in a city of just 1.6 million inhabitants, very small by Chinese standards.
From her one-bedroom apartment on the seventh floor, He Yun, a 28-year-old illustrator, enjoys a panoramic view of the surrounding green hills for just 500 yuan (S$94) a month.
“I put my work on Xiaohongshu” — a Chinese app similar to Instagram — “where people contact me to buy. But we mainly sell at the market,” she said.
Between trendy cafes, boutiques and stands offer glasses, bowls, cups, teapots, plates, necklaces or earrings.
Chen Jia, 24 with dyed red hair, makes feminist pendants in the shape of sanitary napkins.
A music graduate who arrived in June, her first jobs as a piano teacher and in a milk tea shop and cafe weren’t to her liking.
“I am looking for meaning in my life,” she said.
“Many young people today no longer want to clock in at work at a fixed time.”
“Many young people cannot find work” explained the 39-year-old director who calls herself Anna.
“They come here to reduce their anxiety.”
“Ceramics are very accessible. In two weeks, they can produce simple works and sell them at markets.”
One of them, Guo Yiyang, 27, resigned in March from a well-paid job as a computer programmer.
After working overtime for years, he said he wanted to “take a breather”.
“In big cities… you just work. You don’t have your own life,” he said, adding he “never again” sees himself working that way.