Ping Zhan, blazing a trail for Chinese pipemakers : Pipes and Tobaccos Magazine

Ping Zhan, blazing a trail for Chinese pipemakers

This man of many talents is putting China on the map of pipemaking excellence.

by Steve Morrisette

Ping1 Ping Zhan


China presents to the world a culture as civilized as it is ancient, its history stretching back at least to 2700 B.C. It was the Chinese who gave us paper, movable type, the navigational compass, silk and gunpowder. In a land so old and traditional, only recently could it be said of any Chinese native son that he is, even in part, a product of the internet. Exemplifying that sudden, modern embodiment, however, comes Chinese pipemaker Ping Zhan, who could be exhibit A in demonstrating technology’s power to radically alter the life of a nation — and of a man.
Born in 1979 and raised in Dalian, a major seaport city on the tip of the Liaodong Peninsula on the northern coast of China, Ping was the only child of his city-dwelling, middle-class parents. (His birth immediately preceded China’s famous “one-child policy,” which would last for 36 years.) Ping quite unironically refers to Dalian, a city of some 6.6 million, as “not very big.” He has lived there all of his life. He completed his college studies in 2003, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science and technology, and he soon began work as a software engineer at a firm that handled financial data for U.S. health care companies, writing programs and creating software to address the needs of his employer’s clients.

“Life as a software engineer was what most people imagine,” Ping recalls. It meant “working in a cubicle, creating programs to generate reports or to solve issues. I felt some satisfaction for finishing projects, but it was mostly boring work.” Still, Ping does believe he derived benefits from his former career, an approach to work that helped foster his pipemaking. “Having been a software engineer for a long time, I tend to think and solve issues technically, step by step,” he explains. “As pipemaking goes, that plays to my advantage because pipemaking is a craft that needs art and also skills to solve technical issues, so I think it is easier for me to come up with a solution.”

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Category: Fall 2018, Feature Article, Pipe Articles

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