Taiwan's cabbage under glass


Jadeite Cabbage with Insects. This piece, which lives at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, is almost completely identical to a piece of bokchoy cabbage.



Here is what Taiwan, home to the National Palace Museum, had to say about the bungled art heist at the Palace Museum in Beijing this week:

"The National Palace Museum declined Thursday to comment on the Beijing art theft, except to say that no similar crime had ever taken place in Taiwan," as reported in the New York Times.

Oh, snap. And that was Taiwan holding back.

The deal with the two museums is that at the end of the Chinese Civil War, in 1949, the Nationalists took most of the Palace Museum’s best works to Taiwan, where they remain on display.

Beijing has demanded for decades that the pieces be returned. It's a microcosm of the overall tensions between Beijing and Taipei, which explains the latter's response.

What Taiwan meant to say is, "We would never let a similar crime take place here, where we keep our prized jade cabbage and meat stone."

That's right. The bell of the ball at the National Palace Museum is not a crumbling scroll or an enormous painting. It is, in fact, a tiny bok choy cabbage — no larger than a human hand — carved from jade.

People go gaga for this tiny cabbage, which bears an incredible resemblance to the real thing.

The Wall Street Journal detailed the masterpiece, and its cult following, back in 2007:

"At the center of a large, darkened room, glistening in a glass case, the cabbage's dark green leaves furl around a katydid and a locust, and the stalk pales into a translucent white. Two pale green bugs rest lightly on its leaves."

But what are greens without some meat?

Often the jade cabbage is exhibited alongside the meat-shaped stone, which is made from banded jasper that over time develops different colored layers. In this case, the different layers give the appearance of lean and fatty layers of meat.

The National Palace Museum website describes how "veining and hair follicles make the piece appear even more realistic."