The Jade Cabbage

Apparently the Chinese public has a real affinity towards food. This is supported by the fact that the two most famous items in the National Palace Museum are the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone (a stone that was carved to look like pork in soy sauce). My family went there yesterday to look at one of the largest collections of Chinese art in Asia, and it was a fun visit.

The National Palace Museum is designed to look like a traditional Chinese building. It consists of three floors of Chinese jades, sculptures, curio boxes, and more: all the best and finest examples of Chinese tradition and culture. A separate exhibition hall outside the main building houses special exhibits, and there is a garden which people could visit on nice days. Some of these examples date all the way back to the Neolithic period. The extent of Chinese culture probably shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did.

Scenically, it’s located at a high point, overlooking some really beautiful mountains. On the day we went, it was raining pretty hard, so those mountains were covered in fog, and we were also unfortunately unable to visit the gardens. A lot of tourists from Mainland China came specifically to see the jade cabbage, so the museum was crowded.

The museum is very international, with languages in English, Chinese, and Japanese. Everything is very well researched and documented, and it probably helps that many of the people who owned the belongings originally kept very clear records. There was one jade collection from an emperor, and three of the jades were missing. He included notes saying to whom he presented the jades. The museum also has four eating places. Two cafes offer Western style meals and desserts, a teahouse offers Chinese-style snacks and teas, and the Silks Palace Restaurant has Chinese-style cuisine. The cafe had a very nice ambience from what I could tell, but it was also very expensive, being in a museum and all. Still, it seemed to have very good business.

I was not allowed to take any pictures, but collected plenty of reading material in the form of pamphlets to take back and read. My favorite section, probably, was the painting/calligraphy section. I found it fascinating how Chinese artists tried to form a “synthesis of the arts” (not like Wagner) and combine poetry, painting, and calligraphy. Several emperors were at the forefront of this movement. Many of the paintings were accompanied by poems, executed with the finest calligraphy, an art form in itself (supposedly the skill someone had in developing their calligraphy was also related to developing themselves as a disciplined person, something I think is true with any art form). Some of these paintings were titled after the semitones in Chinese music, and I wish I could have found out more about that. I felt as though I was missing out on a lot of the exhibits by not knowing Chinese, as the curators chose not to translate the poetry in the paintings and just left it for viewers to read.

3 Responses to “The Jade Cabbage”
  1. smkelly8 says:

    China has some good museums. I’ve enjoyed the National Museum of Art and the Shandong Provincial Museum in my Chinese hometown of Jinan.

    • Gloria says:

      Hi, I brought jade home frome China and will not part it. Adoralee ELA teacher saids she has the most beautiful hand writing and she had the strokes to Chinses writing but stop wanting to practice. To bad about not being able to take pictures the computer translate for you. Adoralee also has a hard time with grammer in writing but can do poetry beautifully. Its all in the DNA, once again than you for sending me these things it brings back memories and is so thoughtful.

  2. Hello there, I really enjoy reading your blog, good stuff. I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award. Keep up the good work. 🙂

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