About This Project

168’000 m² of pearls Zhuji

Freshwater pearl farmers in Zhuji produce 73% of current World production.

After arriving in Zhuji, we take a taxi to the gigantic pearl trading center. We are here to meet with our contact, Chen, and tour his pearl farm. Once inside the center, we are stunned to find that we are the only visitors that day. The huge building is nearly empty except for a few vendors killing time by playing Chinese dominoes. We meet up with Chen who explains that this isn’t the trading season and that we should return in December to see a bustling center and visit his pearl farm. A bit disappointed, we still buy a few pearls as souvenirs. Back at the center parking lot, we realize how much riches the pearl business brings to local farmers: around us, a hundred or so luxury cars are parked and as far as the eye can see are new, albeit empty, buildings. The pearls, which are purchased for $15 to $75 a kilo, are sold abroad at about 8 times that price. With our treasure in hand, we let our first setback sink in under a beaming sun. We spend the rest of the day trying to soak in the peculiar atmosphere of these freshly built empty cities that we will see often during our travels off the beaten tourist paths.