Ceramic glazing factories in Longquan Town, located in Beijing's Mentougou district, have all been shut down due to unacceptable levels of environmental pollution, Beijing Youth Daily reported.
The area, where colored glazes for the royal family were historically made, has housed production for more than 700 years. Factories in the area used traditional craft that burned coal to make glazes, and the process does produce waste gas pollution, said Sun Hongli, the manager of a local glazing factory.
The authority governing royal glaze manufacturing has been in Mentougou since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and some factories manufacturing colored glazes were relocated to Mentougou during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (1736 to 1796), according to historical record. Overhaul or renovation of the Palace Museum and the Summer Place has typically used glazes manufactured in Mentougou.
Sun said he was trying to cooperate with a company in Hubei province to improve production methods by burning natural gas. The technological innovation would cost him approximately 2 million yuan ($130,000).
Burning natural gas to replace coal requires people to control the temperature, but if the temperature is controlled well, there is little difference to the end product, Sun said.
The new proposal is still waiting for approval from the local environmental protection bureau, Sun said.
He also said that colored glazing has been made at his factory for approximately 30 years, and clients have included the Beijing Railway Station and the National Museum.
So far, many factories like Sun's in Beijing have been closed, except one in Changping district, which burns gas in its production process.
An official with the environmental protection bureau said that communication with glazing factories was in progress.
Gao Wei, the secretary-general of the China Folklore Society, said it could be an opportunity for the colored glaze industry, which might urge enterprises to improve technological and industrial upgrades.
Gao said he hoped the government could find a balance between environmental protection and cultural preservation, and formulate policies to guide the healthy development of the glaze industry.