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Ancient Carpet Craft in Hotan Xinjiang Brings Villagers New Opportunities

The art of carpet-making has been a part of Hotan prefecture's history for at least 2,000 years. Today, villagers are using the ancient craft to lift themselves out of poverty.

Sahipjamal Tursunniyaz, 30, learned traditional Hotan carpet-weaving from her mother when she was 18. But it was not until two months ago that she began to make silk carpets, a finer handicraft than the traditional rugs.

"I can earn 4,000 yuan ($600) for each square meter of handmade silk rug," Tursunniyaz said. Although it takes a month and a half to complete 1 sq m of silk carpet, the work has helped Tursunniyaz increase her income.

She weaves at a carpet factory in Hotan, in the southwest of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Many other local women have also improved their living standards through rugmaking.

Abliz Metyusup, manager of Xinjiang Nakixwan Hand Carpet Development, said the gross output of his company last year reached more than 28 million yuan, providing employment for more than 600 women. Ten percent of its products are exported to Australia, Britain, the United States and Germany.

Ancient carpet craft brings villagers new opportunities

The company has also built three kindergartens for employees to provide free education for their children.

The prefecture has 157 carpet factories, providing 120,000 jobs. Women account for 95 percent of the workers.

Residents in Yaprak, a village in Hotan, are exploring an additional way to eliminate poverty with help from the local government.

Jelili Obulqasim, 58, has been growing roses for more than a decade. He earns a good living making and selling rose jam.

Unfortunately, he is an exception in his village. Out of a population of 1,700, more than 65 percent have annual incomes below 3,000 yuan.

Masim Qapar, the village Party chief, blames the poverty on a lack of arable land. She said everyone in the village grew roses 20 years ago. Today, villagers prefer to grow other crops just to have enough to eat.

At the beginning of this year, a group of officials and experts carried out surveys in the village and reaffirmed the feasibility of growing roses. In a tailored poverty-alleviation, plan they suggested planting wheat and roses at the same time.

Ancient carpet craft brings villagers new opportunities

"Since planting roses does not generate profits for the first two years, we encourage villagers to plant wheat and roses together. The harvested wheat can ensure basic livelihoods, while from the third year on, roses will bring profits so they don't need to plant wheat anymore," said He Wei, another village cadre member.

The roses will be used for making rose jam, a popular food in Hotan. They will also be processed into rose oil and related products, which are expected to be sold nationwide, He said.

Villagers from 300 households planted wheat by early October and planted rose seedlings provided by the local government in November.

The cadre said authorities will work with neighboring villages and factories to produce rose products and develop tourism by expanding farms to attract visitors from nearby cities.

Thanks to poverty-alleviation measures, the number of impoverished people in Xinjiang dropped from 2.6 million in 2013 to 1.2 million at the end of last year.

"We have the confidence and the methods to lift the remaining impoverished households out of poverty by 2020," Niu Xuexing, Party chief of Hotan, said during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.