Pearls and the Pearl Market
The Pearls of China
Visiting the Pearl Market in Zhuji
It is not an easy place to get to from Shaoxing, but many of my colleagues have make the journey to the Zhuji pearl market, and when I was invited to go with a small group, I jumped at the chance. Not that I am a great fan of pearls, but being in China, one does see quite a lot.
There is a long history of pearls in China - in fact I've read that 96% of the world's pearls come from China, and the ponds where the precious pearls are grown are all around Shaoxing, and we see them whenever we travel. Many are small ponds and the tell tale green bottles floating on the surface indicate that there are pearl shells growing below.
The journey to Zhuji was interesting - through countryside, villages bursting with activity as it was a Sunday and a holiday weekend, and it took just over an our to reach our destination, but it seemed faster as we tried to take in the ever changing landscape as we passed by.
The roads were shocking - pot holes and real shock absorber challenges and soon we could see this amazing building on the left. We all asked 'why build such a huge building and market in the back of nowhere.' It is about 20 kms from the city of Zuji, but certainly right in the middle of pearl growing territory.
Inside the huge modern building were row upon row of little shops each displaying their products on their counters, in huge bins or in glass cabinets. It was hard to take in and even walking around trying to make a purchase it was overwhelming. Awesome, you might say.
In each little shop there would be one or more ladies deftly making jewelry. Simple designs - fancy crazy designs. Each stall/shop we'd pass, the shopkeeper would try to entice you in. Some you could bargain with - others not. We always get the feeling that as foreigners we pay more, but still we know the prices are far less than we would pay at home.
Row upon row of little shops. Pile upon pile of pearls - boxes, plastic bags, glass cases.