Some 2,600 farmers in Queshan, a small county in Central China’s Henan province, are helping fulfill the dreams of millions of violin lovers across the world even though they know very little about music.
The farmers are luthiers, or instrument makers, of over 80 percent of middle-to high-end violins, and 40 percent of violins, violas and cellos in China. Their products have been sold in many countries including Italy, the United States, Germany and Spain.
“Working as a luthier gives me a sense of accomplishment,” said Jiang Hexi, a 37-year-old luthier at Queshan-based Henan Hao Yun Musical Instrument.
Jiang has been making violins for almost two decades.
“I started my career in 2001 when a friend from Queshan introduced me to Hao Yun. Hao Yun was then located in Beijing and founded by a person from Queshan.”
“Actually, many people of my age started their career in violin manufacturing companies in Beijing through introductions from Queshan natives. Many from the county had started big violin manufacturing businesses in Beijing and they prefer to have workers from their hometown in their factories,” Jiang said.
The history dates back to the 1980s when a batch of farmers from Queshan quit working on crops and came to Beijing for jobs in violin handcrafting studios. Many of their relatives and friends were then promoted in the same job.
In 2015, Queshan launched a series of preferential policies targeted at luthiers who were from Queshan but had worked in Beijing. The goal was to attract them to start violin-making related businesses back in their hometown to boost the local economy and create more job opportunities.
In that year, over 60 luthiers came back to Queshan and started their own violin businesses.
Hao Yun, where Jiang is now working, is one of the companies relocated from Beijing.
“The local government has many supportive policies, like tax cuts and waiving rental fees for our factory. That is one of the reasons that we came back. Moreover, we want to run a business that does good not only to us but for people back in our hometown,” said Hao Yun General Manager Guo Xinshe.
To date, Queshan is home to 102 violin manufacturing factories, providing job opportunities to over 2,600 people, the local government said.
“Working in my hometown is much easier and more comfortable than in Beijing. I got time to take care of my parents and my kids. In Beijing, I only got the chance to visit home once or twice a year. The salary is pretty much the same at about 10,000 yuan per month,” said Jiang, who is now a director of the assembling department of Hao Yun.
Zhou Minliang, a senior researcher at the Institute of Industrial Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the landing of leading violin manufacturing companies in Queshan county has promoted regional economic development, created jobs and generated more tax revenues.
It may also attract more downstream manufacturers to set up units in Queshan to meet the demand of violin manufacturing companies, said Zhou. Forming a relatively complete industry chain cluster is important to regional development as it will help in sourcing components and increase the overall competitiveness of local companies, he said.
But the industry in Queshan also faces challenges on how to upgrade and transform to high-quality development, Zhou said.
Many violin manufacturing companies in Queshan are still original equipment manufacturers, making component products or finished items which will be labeled under someone else’s name. A large portion of their products go to value-added resellers who share a big part of total profits from those violins.
“Those companies should step up efforts to build up their own brands and develop value-added services to move up the global value chain,” Zhou said.
The local government’s offer of corresponding services such as cheaper infrastructure and supportive policies will facilitate the transformation of violin manufacturing companies to high-quality development and increase their brand’s influence, Zhou added.
Many villages, counties and small-sized cities in Henan have managed to develop an economy with their own distinct characteristics through the help of increasing labor, capital and other resources in those areas, he said.