Company visits to the – according to Chinese reading – world center for natural stone in Shuitou not far from Xiamen: Carrara Calacatta as far as the eye can see

Xinpengfei company showroom.Xinpengfei company showroom.

Xingengfei has an extensive showroom just for this type of marble, Jinsheng Marble (J&S Marble) also has a sales hall full of it

The big seller among natural stones in China is currently the Carrara marble, we heard at various booths at the Xiamen 2023 fair (June 05 – 08). One must be careful with such statements, especially when they come from companies that in turn sell the material from Italy there.

But indeed, at the fair we had the impression that Chinese companies openly pointed to Italy as the place of origin of their stones as never before.

And even more: the day after the fair, the Chinese Natural Stone Association (CSMA) invited us together with some architects to visit the stone cluster of Shuitou not far from Xiamen, and there we could not believe our eyes. More about this below.

Shuitou is a district of the large city of Na’an and likes to call itself the world center of the natural stone industry. According to the association, there are about 700 companies in the industry with about 100,000 employees, including 150 companies with annual sales of more than RMB 20 million (currently about US$ 2.75 million) each.

The center was installed in the 1990s and currently turns over RMB 20 billion worth of stone goods annually. The goods are shipped through the ports of Xiamen and Quanzhou, respectively. From Xiamen, Shuitou can be reached by highway in about an hour’s drive. The major city of Na’an, also in Fujian Province, is about 1.5 hours away.

The cluster is just as one knows such locations from all over the world: wide areas with large halls, rutted roads over which heavy trucks swing, stone dust everywhere – and then, during our visit, we suddenly come across this showroom, inside which we are almost speechless: in a huge hall it is like in Finland in winter – everything is bathed in pure white, no engine noise, and the roof of the wide hall looks like the gray sky during the polar night. Only the many orchids as decoration show that one is somewhere else.

Xinpengfei is the name of the company that presents nothing but slabs of Calacatta marble here. “This is the preferred variety in China,“ General Manager An Ran tells us. We can believe her because whoever runs such a stockpile must also ensure corresponding sales.

The supplier is solely the company Gemeg from Carrara.

An Ran, general manager at Xinpengfei, showed a picture of the female staff from International Women’s Day 2023 during her company presentation.General Manager An Ran, 2nd from left.Xinpengfei hat den Showroom vor 2 Jahren eingerichtet. Die Firma arbeitet für Projekte in China und weltweit. „Wenn wir andere Steinsorten brauchen, kaufen wir die hinzu“, sagt Frau An. Wenn ein Vorhaben die Kapazitäten von Xingengfei überschreitet, kooperiert man mit Partnern.

Xinpengfei set up the showroom two years ago. The company works for projects in China and worldwide. “If we need other types of stone, we buy them in,“ says Ms. An. When a project exceeds Xingengfei’s capacity, they cooperate with partners.

In the huge hall, as big as one soccer field side by side in terms of impression, Carrara marble is staged as a material for upscale lifestyle and elegance. This is also the image that Italy’s companies give to their stones and to themselves.

Even the rows of supports for the roof are covered with white surfaces. A meeting room stands out like a command post. There, Ms. An also informs us about the design objects that the company develops. Her presentation also includes a picture of the female part of the staff.

Showroom of Jinsheng Marble (J&S Marble).Showroom of Jinsheng Marble (J&S Marble).Showroom of Jinsheng Marble (J&S Marble).Quite comparable, even if not styled down to the last detail, was another stop on the day’s excursion, namely the showroom of Jinsheng Marble (J&S Marble). Here, too, one finds Carrara marble, this time from suppliers Furrer and Sagevan.

But the company also has other materials on offer and also has its own quarries. Processing is just a few steps next to the showroom in separate halls.

Similar to Xingengfei, artistic marble objects are also on display.

Entrance to the Museum of stone and natural history of Yinliang Stone company and to 5th Gallery company.Showroom of 5th Gallery company.Showroom of 5th Gallery company.Yinliang Stone was another stop. Here there is a showroom with numerous productions for kitchens, bathrooms, or architectures with the stones of the company. A highlight is the now famous Stone and Natural History Museum that the company maintains. Rarely have we seen such spectacular fossils. Ideological interpretations did not catch our eye – at the beginning of the show, photos of the Americans landing on the moon are displayed.

In the end, the exhibition turns to product design with natural stone. On display are everyday objects, such as stone slabs for the tea ceremonies common in Asia. Tea-Pet are the names of small figures that are poured over during the ceremonies and are supposed to bring good luck. Traditionally, they are made of clay, as are the teapots; Yinliang showed entire groups of accessories made of natural stone.

Spectacular is the showroom of 5th Gallery company.

Showroom of Pengxiang Company.Wang Shaofang, president of Pengxiang.Wang Shaofang, Präsident von Pengxiang.A stark contrast was the visit to Pengxiang, a manufacturer of artificial stone. With its brand, the company focuses entirely on sustainability and therefore titles its material “Recycled Stone“: “We only use waste as raw material,“ emphasized company boss Wang Shaofang.

Again, the showroom was expansive, though not opulent like the natural stone companies. Instead, Pengxiang tells the story of its material on wall plaques: it sees its beginnings in the Stone Age and uses as early as the pyramids, and brings in Roman cement and equally terrazzo for later eras. Among other things, it says that the modern artificial stones were invented in China and further developed in Europe in the 20th century.

(08.09.2023, USA: 09.08.2023)