A modern carpet factory in northwestern China is helping boost trade between the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Central Asia as well as preserve traditional Uygur culture.
"Carpets are a must for every Uygur household, regardless of economic status," said Karim Mamattinez, director of Xinjiang Parlak Carpet Factory in Urumqi, the regional capital.
"Some people drape all their walls at home in exquisite carpets. It is a symbol of wealth and good fortune," he added.
The factory was founded by Xinjiang Parlak Import and Export Trading Co in 2009 and was among the first in the region to make carpets using machines.
The local government designated the startup as a business with ethnic characteristics in an effort to boost the ancient Uygur culture and meet growing demands. It was given a favorable tax rate and government subsidies.
Karim said Xinjiang used to be a big importer of Turkish and Iranian carpets, as local manufacturers mainly produced handwoven carpets, producing less than 300,000 square meters a year. This cannot meet the increasing demand in the region, he said.
Annual output from the Parlak alone is now over 600,000 sq m, with the revenue from exports to Central Asia surpassing 20 million yuan ($3.14 million), according to Karim.
He noted that handwoven carpet have their value, too.
"Handwoven carpets can be more exquisite because people can add to it as many colors as they want, whereas machines can weave carpets with only up 16 colors," he said.
In 2015, Parlak set up a workshop to train handwoven carpet craftsmen to meet the demand of high-end consumers and preserve the technique. When they had finished their training, they were sent to the seven Parlak outlets across Xinjiang, including in Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu.
Parlak also acquired more than 13 hectares of land from the local government last year to establish a carpet industrial park, which includes a research and development center, a trading zone and a customer service center.
Karim said the park is still under construction and is expected to be put into use by 2019. It will increase Parlak's output by 10 times and create 1,200 jobs, he said.