Three years ago, towering statues of Roman gods and European saints brought bustle and prosperity to China’s sculpture capital of Quyang.
Today, however, this village of 20,000 in northern China is suffering from the slumping global market.
Shattered angels and abandoned machinery litter workshop yards. Many businesses have shut down or scaled back, forcing artisans to leave town and seek work elsewhere.
Although China has other centers of sculpture production, none can match the village for its history and scale.
Quyang has been a center for sculpting in China since the Han dynasty in the second century BC. In the three decades following China’s economic opening in the late 1970s, it built up a thriving export industry by catering to the tastes of western customers.
In 2008, exports accounted for over 90 percent of sales. But then came the global financial crisis. And with the economies of the US and Europe now struggling again, orders from abroad have slowed to a trickle.
A massive mural commissioned by a coal-mining company in northeastern China points to where business is coming from today.