For years, China's government has argued that banning ivory would destroy centuries-old cultural traditions that carvers like Li and his apprentices preserve. But in December, Beijing announced it would phase out its ivory trade by the end of 2017.
Environmentalists hailed the move as offering hope for the world's dwindling number of elephants, as well as a fundamental shift in the way China's government and people view the use of wildlife products.
China is widely acknowledged as one of the world's biggest ivory markets, if not the biggest, though the total value is hard to gauge. The country's total consumption, according to one estimate, is about 13.5 tons annually in recent years, most of it illegal.
The existence of a legal ivory market in China has provided cover for black marketeers, who often pass off their wares as legitimately sourced.