Saturday, January 13, 2007

Violins: Made in China

China, the violin prodigy
Xiqiao, China — FOR more than 10 years, Wu Hong Fang's days have been filled with the same gentle sound, the quick chafe of sandpaper on spruce and maple. Working briskly, methodically, her hands a dusty blur, she sands violins all day, six days a week.

There is a rhythm to what she does, but you wouldn't call it music. Wu laughs when she's asked whether she feels any connection to the melodies these violins will one day produce.

"Basically," she says, "it's a living."

Wu earns about $100 a month working for Taixing Fengling Musical Instrument Co., the largest violin maker in the world. Its low-slung, low-tech factory sprawls over the center of this once-sleepy farm town in southeastern China.

The people of Xiqiao once grew cabbage, rice and other crops. Today the town of 35,000 is home to about 40 violin companies, giving it a credible claim to being the violin capital of the world.


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