As winter approaches, a ginger factory in Tongling, Anhui province, stores nearly 5 metric tons of white ginger seeds in a building with earthen walls and a tiled roof.
The building, which local residents call the "ginger pavilion", is heated by wood fires that dry and warm the seeds in preparation for planting next spring.
Jin Rulin, a provincial-level inheritor of the Tongling white ginger production technique, said 29 steps were involved in the cultivation and processing of ginger.
"From storage in the ginger loft to sun-drying the harvested ginger, every step is crucial," Jin said.
The Tongling technique, practiced for over 2,000 years, has recently been recognized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System.
For members of the local community, it is not just a cultural treasure but is also vital to their livelihoods.
The ginger factory processes large jars of fresh white ginger harvested in September. The ginger pieces, known for their large size and thin skin, are turned into a variety of products and distributed nationwide.
"It's a peak season for the production and sale of Tongling white ginger," said Jin, who manages about 6.7 hectares of land that produces nearly 5 tons of white ginger a month.
While preserving the essence of traditional methods, Jin has innovated by exploring new flavors, packaging and product derivatives, rolling out over a dozen white ginger-related products.
His efforts have boosted local employment, engaged over 300 households in the ginger industry, and generated annual sales of nearly 8 million yuan ($1.1 million).
The thriving ginger industry in Tongling has witnessed substantial growth in recent years. The area under cultivation reached over 386.7 hectares last year, with total output valued at 180 million yuan. More than 2,600 farming households and 35 processing and sales companies are involved in the industry.
More young people are combining the traditional craft with innovation and technological advancement.
Four years ago, entrepreneur Cheng Ling, who was then 33, returned to his hometown in Datong, a suburb of Tongling, with his wife.
They established their own brand, which has branched out from conventional ginger products to novel items such as ginger rice wine and ginger perfume.
They produce nearly 25 tons of ginger products a year and use the power of the internet to reach a nationwide audience.
Recognizing the importance of educating people about the ancient craft, Cheng and his wife have organized educational activities based on the cultivation and processing of Tongling white ginger. Nearly 2,000 students have attended them.
"The older craftsmen are preserving the traditions, and what we young people can do more is to accelerate and change," Cheng said, adding that they are working on the online promotion of white ginger products and culture, and employing modern technologies such as digital management to enhance efficiency.