2m 12sLenght

CHEN: For centuries, the eastern Chinese city of Zhuji has taken pride in its pristine environment, moderate climate, and clear waters. And these factors have also contributed to the city's push to become a hub for the worldwide cultivation of freshwater pearls. We take a look, now, at the city's key industry. STORY: A pearl farmer rows his small boat across this lake in Zhuji, carefully checking on the freshwater oysters that hold the fortune for his family. 52-year-old pearl farmer Wu Zhiyuan (pron: woo-chee-yuan) has been cultivating freshwater pearls for 30 years. And he knows the clean water in the rivers, lakes and ponds in this area, contain the secret to the success of China's pearl city. Pearls are naturally formed when a foreign substance invades the shell of the clam. But techniques introduced in the 1900s allow farmers around the world to cultivate pearls artificially. The origins of the man made pearl industry come from Japan. But China soon caught up to the international stage in the 1960s. Mainlanders flooded the world with huge quantities of cheaply cultivated pearls. However, the quality of the initial Chinese pearls was not up to world standards. So China began to research and develop how to produce high-quality pearls at a low-cost. And today, China is outpacing Japan in terms of the quantity its cultivated pearls and some say the quality as well. China's success has pushed global pearl prices to record lows, but at the same time making them more affordable for the masses. Pearl farmer Wu Zhiyuan says this pearl revolution has also changed the way of life for pearl farmers in Zhuji. [Wu Zhiyuan, Pearl Farmer]: "I have been working in this industry for more than 20 years, nearly 30 years. In earlier days, we didn't work for a pearl company, it was just a family business. Now we are under the management of the pearl company." On an average, farmers say an artificially cultivated mollusk can produce between 30 to 40 pearls.