Tibetan Nixi Potters

For more than 1200 years, Tibetan potters in Yunnan Province in southwest China have been carrying out their tradition of Nixi Black Pottery as an integral part of their culture and a key source of income for the artisans and for over 120 families. In 2012, ATA launched the two-year Nixi Tibetan Cultural Preservation and Economic Empowerment Program to conserve the Nixi Black Pottery tradition, and provide opportunities to develop appreciation for Nixi Black Pottery in both China and internationally and create new markets beyond Nixi Village.

As part of this project, from June 23 to July 18, five Nixi potters will be traveling around the US as part of a cultural exchange tour that will help preserve their tradition, provide economic opportunities and develop new markets. For 2.5 weeks, the Nixi potters will have cultural exchange activities in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New York City, Washington DC, and Asheville, North Carolina.

This cultural exchange will help enrich the potters’ knowledge of how to build a successful pottery enterprise, increase economic opportunities, and expand their market reach. ATA is excited and proud to introduce the five Nixi potters who will be traveling around the US for the cultural exchange:

Guojunhua (Dangzhen Picchu)

As the leader of the group and spokesman for the community, Dangzhen has been practicing Nixi Black Pottery for 37 years. During the cultural exchange, he looks forward to understanding chemical makeup of the Nixi clay and all the technical elements to be able to speak intelligently about it and teach other potters in the Nixi village. He looks forward to learning everything about foreign arts and US culture. He also wants to test their clay to understand its composition.

Zhishi Qilin

Zhishi has been practicing Nixi Black Pottery for 14 years. He looks forward to learning different firing techniques, better finishing and how to arrange surface decorations around the pottery in a more interesting way. This cultural exchange is important to him because he’ll experience the US culture and apply what he learned to his own work to benefit the entire community.



For 12 years, Chuidian has been practicing Nixi Black Pottery. During the cultural exchange, he looks forward to learning new, sustainable and eco-friendly techniques from foreign artists. To Chuidian, experiencing the outside world and meeting new artists will help him share and teach new techniques to younger artisans.

Li Xiao Ming (Yudian)

After finishing three years of higher education, Yudian has been working in his uncle’s pottery business for five years. With his schooling, Yudian could have sought work outside the Nixi tradition but he chose to stay in the village which he loves, to help his family continue the ancient practice so he can pass it onto future generations. During the cultural exchange, he looks forward to meeting foreign artists, learning their techniques and how they run their pottery businesses.


As the youngest of the group at only 18 years old, Dingzhu has been practicing Nixi Black Pottery for three years. He’s excited to visit US artisan workshops and museums. During the cultural exchange, he looks forward to learn more about carving and other ways of surface decoration. This experience will help improve his technique, which in turn will help their craft.

ATA wishes to recognize Kathy Erteman, our lead consultant, for her continuous involvement in the field and support for the Nixi potters.