Craftsmen like Mr Wu Yuanxin, who specialises in a traditional printing and dyeing style known as Nantong blue calico, is the type of talent the authorities would like more of.
In the past three years, Mr Wu has developed more than 1,000 products including wall hangings, bags, scarves and ties, shoes and toys made with Nantong blue calico, he told a forum organised by People's Daily last week.
"The developing and preservation of traditional crafts should not be just focused on their historical value and craftsmanship," the People's Daily online quoted him as saying.
Mr Wu added: "Through innovative designs, we could combine traditional crafts with fashion, making them more accessible to everyone.
"Without demand, or the market, any talk of developing and preserving traditional crafts is just empty words."
MASTERS IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY
There are exacting standards one has to meet to become a craftsman.
For antique furniture maker Guan Yi, who employs some 100 craftsmen making customised replicas of Palace-style furniture, craftsmanship demands a lifelong dedication to performing the same tasks over and over, in pursuit of excellence.
"One will need at least six to seven years of training," he said. Only with such dedication to quality can one be truly called a "craftsman", he added.
Such single-minded pursuit of brilliance has inspired millions of Chinese, especially the young.
Last year, a documentary on museum craftsmen restoring relics became a surprise online hit, with most of the viewers being youngsters born in the 1990s and 2000s.
Masters In The Forbidden City, as the series produced by state broadcaster CCTV is called, has been viewed more than eight million times on Youku, one of China's major video-streaming websites, with an average rating of 9.5 out of 10.
The documentary showcases craftsmen who specialise in restoring some of the 1.8 million pieces of bronze ware, ceramics, clocks, wood carvings, paintings and calligraphy in the collection of the museum, which opened in 1925, a year after the last Qing ruler Puyi was expelled from the palace.
Netizens praised the series for exploring the meaning of craftsmanship. "We are able to see these historical artefacts today because of these ordinary-looking experts. They are willing to endure loneliness to painstakingly work at their craft," wrote a viewer by the name Mengxi on Douban, a film review website in China.
Mr Shan Jixiang, director of the Palace Museum, told Xinhua news agency earlier this year that the documentary's popularity had sparked a surge of interest in conservation craftsmanship. The museum received 15,000 job applications for 20 vacancies at its conservation department last year, said Mr Shan.
Veteran woodwork craftsman Huang Youfang, 60, told The Straits Times that old retired woodwork masters are also enjoying a second wind in their careers.
"My shi xiong (senior colleagues) used to come back to help out with restoration projects when the need arose, but only as temporary workers," said Mr Huang, a Beijing native who has worked at the Palace Museum his entire adult life.
"But from this year, they have been offered official re-employment contracts with a regular salary," added Mr Huang, who will also join the scheme after he officially retires this month.
PASSING THE BATON
Yet, Mr Huang worries about succession. His department, which is in charge of woodwork, tiling, painting and wall drawings, has not hired again after taking in 15 contract apprentices in 2012.
Major repair works at the Palace Museum are still typically subcontracted to commercial companies whose workers are unskilled farmers from the countryside who know nothing about ancient architecture.
"These migrant workers don't care about the craft, or the traditional techniques unique to the palace," lamented Mr Huang. In order for craftsmanship to survive and thrive, skills have to be passed to the next generation, he said.
The Palace Museum could consider recruiting people with lower paper qualifications, such as high school or vocational institute graduates, said Mr Huang. This way, the apprentices can be trained from a younger age - like he did when he joined the museum as a 19-year-old.