Luannan has a history of manufacturing shovels and other farm tools dating back to the early 1900s, and the county has developed a sizeable industry cluster that supplies almost 100 percent of domestically made steel shovels.
Welder Zhang Zixin is proud that the shovels he's produced are sold all over the world.
Zhang lives in the town of Songdaokou in Luannan, a rural place boasting a cluster of shovel makers. He's welded metal and made shovels for 15 years.
"When I was around 18 years old, I would often see my uncle make shovels, but back then I felt the work looked tiring," he said, adding that the work environment at the time was very harsh, especially in summer with the hot and humid weather.
Workers make steel shovels in Tangshan, Hebei province, on April 28. LIU LANWEI/FOR CHINA DAILY
Today, a lot has changed. Over 30 detailed processes are required to complete the production of a single shovel.
The small town of Songdaokou has developed into an important manufacturing base for steel shovels.
From family workshops to large-scale factories, Songdaokou now produces 85 percent of domestic steel shovels, said Fu Changyi, president of Songdaokou Steel Shovel Association.
This industry originated in the village of Qizhuangzi in the town, where villagers learned to forge iron and make all kinds of farm tools in the early 20th century, according to Fu Changyi, a Songdaokou resident who has been engaged in the steel shovel industry for more than 30 years.
Some villagers began making iron pots and other cooking tools, as well as iron shovels, in the 1940s and then diversified to making steel shovels by learning other techniques in the 1950s.