Chinese online shopping platform Taobao, owned by tech-to-retail heavyweight Alibaba, has included non-fungible tokens for sale in its annual Taobao Maker Festival, one of its parent firm’s most recent attempts to explore the NFT sector. 

Cooperating with Near Protocol, a blockchain-based development platform, Taobao was just days ago showcasing and selling artworks by Huang Heshan, a young artist who graduated from Tsinghua University, at the festival, an annual event that celebrates innovation and creativity among Chinese artists and entrepreneurs, according to a press release.

Huang’s artwork was a collection of unique NFT “real estate” built by “Mr. Toorich,” a virtual character designed by Huang. In the virtual world, Mr. Toorich has decided to “use his wealth to build affordable housing and improve the lives of families in his virtual city.”

The artworks were available to buy only via Taobao, and all of them — including 300 virtual apartments, 10 houses and 350 parking spaces in Toorich City — sold out. When purchasers bought the virtual real estate on Taobao, they received a printed property ownership certificate in the virtual city — a QR code that led to the Near platform so they could check its authenticity and resell it to other users. 

Huang said he was excited to continue building on the story of Mr. Toorich and experiment with more NFT-related products in the future, especially in the realm of the metaverse.

“NFTs are changing the collectibles market, and there are more and more NFTers stepping into [the] space,” said Amos Zhang, head of Asia at Near Protocol. Zhang said he hoped the partnership wold help bring blockchain technology and NFTs to mainstream audiences and create new channels for reaching real-world users. 

It is not the first time that Alibaba Group has explored NFTs. One of China’s biggest payment apps, Alipay, a product of Alibaba affiliate Ant Group, sold four batches of NFT artworks — a total of 32,000 pieces — in late June. All were sold out within a day. 

One of the artworks sold for thousands of yuan by Alipay appeared on Xianyu, a second-hand goods app, but was quickly removed. 

Ant Group unit Antchain posted a statement after the successful sale of NFT artworks saying that “NFTs are not interchangeable, nor divisible, making them fundamentally different from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin,” according to a report by business media outlet Caixin.

Even though China’s crypto industry is facing a severe clampdown, NFTs remain hot property as companies such as Alibaba distinguish them from cryptos.