Traditional Chinese culture inspires global popularity of art toys

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, September 25, 2023
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Made from intricate metal wire mesh and embellished with emerald pieces and jeweled tassels, The Phoenix Coronet is an exquisite toy inspired by traditional Chinese culture.

Historically reserved for noblewomen during ceremonies and official occasions in ancient China, phoenix coronets have made a contemporary resurgence in the form of art toys. Art toys, or designer toys, are toys and collectibles created by artists and designers and typically sold in limited editions.

Piececool, an art toy maker based in Dongguan, south China's Guangdong Province, is the manufacturer of The Phoenix Coronet. The company boasts a global reach, selling its products to over 100 countries and regions. The Phoenix Coronet is its hit product, generating monthly sales exceeding 200,000 units.

"Combining traditional Chinese culture with modern aesthetics, many art toys have become a global sensation," said Xiong Mao, who heads the operation of the Piececool brand. The brand's other top-selling products include a series based on the alleyways of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), depicting the splendor of the dynasty.

Originally a manufacturer of metal buttons for mobile phones, Piececool later shifted its focus to metal toys. However, this change did not initially yield the desired market response. The company's turnaround finally materialized when it embraced Chinese traditional culture.

Today, Piececool's products are translated into seven languages, accumulating over a billion users worldwide.

According to industry data, the global art toy market is experiencing rapid growth, with market size increasing from 8.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to 34 billion U.S. dollars in 2022.

Dongguan is a toy manufacturing hub, boasting over 4,000 toy makers. As of 2022, Dongguan had 87 large-scale enterprises involved in art toy production, with a total industrial output value of 16.66 billion yuan (about 2.32 billion U.S. dollars), marking a 29.8 percent increase year on year.

Wu Yifu, deputy general manager of the online platform Chaowanzu, specializing in art toy trading, noted that previously Chinese manufacturers had often focused on producing outsourced foreign products, mainly featuring foreign IPs or designs.

"Now, Chinese brands are rising and infusing more Chinese elements into their designs. The market prefers art toys with a Chinese flair," Wu said.

Many art toys have enjoyed robust sales in Southeast Asia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, thanks to geographical and cultural proximity, Wu noted, adding that customers in these regions are also very interested in Chinese mythology and museum culture.

Artists often draw inspiration from the rich trove of traditional Chinese culture in designing these toys, presenting figures from well-known traditional Chinese stories such as "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" or "Classic of Mountains and Seas," said Wang Dongdong, the founder of Dongguan Dongxiu Culture Communication Co., Ltd., a local toy design company.

The rise in the popularity of this genre coincides with the broader trend of growing Chinese toy exports. Some prominent Chinese art toy brands are making significant strides in overseas markets.

Pop Mart, a major trendy toy company, reported a 19.3 percent year-on-year revenue increase in the first half of 2023. Its overseas business revenue surged almost 140 percent from the same period last year, totaling 376 million yuan, recent company data showed.

Luo Xiaoxing, general manager of startup company Guangzhou MANYC Network Technology Co., Ltd., has a positive outlook on the art toy market.

"Culture empowers a transformative shift in traditional toy manufacturing, and in this new race of art toys, there are more opportunities and a larger global market," Luo said. 

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