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Tile and brick workshops

Tile and brick workshops

The earth of Zhouzhuang is classified into yellow soil, purple soil, green soil and black soil. Among them, yellow soil, constituting 88.5 percent of Zhouzhuang's soil, is good material for processing black tiles.

Remove the soft mud on the surface, go through the procedures of splashing water, trampling and turning over, and rough tile blanks will be made.

Baking black tiles requires great skill. When the rough tile blanks are loaded into the kilns, they have to go through eight or nine days of burning under slow, raging fires until the blazes are put out. They are then splashed with water to cool down and become solid black tiles.

Black tiles from Zhouzhuang are popular on today's market. As a result, most men in Zhouzhuang are good at processing black tiles. As a saying goes, there are 36 kilns and 72 bridges in the waterside town of Zhouzhuang.

In the 1970s and 1980s in particular, when the building of tile-roof houses reached a high tide in rural China, and the country was eager to renovate tile-roof ancient buildings, the production of archaized tiles boomed across the nation.

At that time, Zhouzhuang had as many as 300 to 400 businesses processing archaized tiles, producing a total of 100 million pieces of archaized black tiles a year. In addition, a large amount of bricks were produced.

For a period, the town ran so short of soil that the tile industry began damaging farmlands. Since the mid-1980s, the town government has taken strict measures to control and eventually ban the production of tiles and bricks.

These measures have had some unfortunate side effects. As any economist can tell you, the rarity of an object increases its value. Zhouzhuang archaized black tiles have become indispensable materials for the construction of archaized buildings in southern Yangtze River area.