In August 2005, Xi Jinping, then-Party chief of Zhejiang province, visited Yucun village in Anji, Huzhou city.
Xi hailed the village's move to close mines that pollute and adopt ecological tourism by taking advantage of natural scenic views. "We should never follow outdated modes of development. In fact, clear waters and lush mountains themselves mean gold," he said.
It was during this trip Xi proposed the important "Two Mountains" theory, calling clear waters and lush mountains invaluable assets comparable to the gold and silver of legend.
The theory revealed the development path for Huzhou. At the beginning of the century, Huzhou's bedrock industries were all energy consumers. Natural resources like bamboo were nearly depleted, and rural residents were confronted with a dirty, messy environment.
Starting in 2003, Huzhou joined Zhejiang province's action plan to rejuvenate the countryside and set up exemplary ecological villages. The city also piloted the Beautiful Village initiative in 2008.
Huzhou's economy has shifted to family farms, tourism and accommodation for economic development. Farm tourism revenue grew 28.1 percent year-on-year, churning out 8.23 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in 2017.
Natural resources also contribute to Huzhou's economic boom, with local bamboo products occupying 20 percent of the national market.
To maintain sustainable growth, Huzhou is vying for research talent on ecological issues.
A total of 10 Chinese academicians work in Huzhou's Geographical Information Industry Park. Its output reached 6 billion yuan in 2017, contributing 468 million yuan in taxes.
Huzhou, a small city with 460,000 registered local residents, now boasts 13 academic workstations, attracting experts and scholars with doctorates. They have made significant progress in emissions reduction, water treatment, solid waste treatment, manure processing and battery recycling.
After more than 10 years, Huzhou has blazed the trail for green and ecological development, and is spreading its experience to other provinces in China.