Apple's Glass Temple, Made in China

The tubular glass entranceway to Shanghai’s new Apple Inc. (AAPL) shop may be its most high-tech feature, considering the iPad hasn’t officially arrived in China.

Twelve rounded glass panels stand over 12.5 meters (41 feet) to form the cylindrical dome. Inside, the computer maker’s distinctive bitten-apple logo is suspended above a glass stairway that corkscrews into the underground retail space

The atrium foyer is also a crystalline sign of the times: It was made entirely in China, establishing a fresh benchmark on workmanship for the world’s largest glass industry.

Glassmaking is a rare ancient craft with limited history in China. It got a boost in 1954 when Mao Zedong urged more production of building materials during a visit to a Hebei Province glass factory. In 1971, China’s building materials bureau proclaimed its development of a version of the established “float glass” manufacturing process.

By the early 1990s, China had overtaken the U.S. in flat glass production, and its 28.7 million-ton output last year was six times Ducker Worldwide managing partner Nick Limb’s estimate of 2009 U.S. shipments.

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