Taiwan’s Jade Cabbage

When I was a kid, my family lived in Taipei, Taiwan. I had many adventures living there, and spent a lot of my time riding the bus all over and running around the city. There were a lot of things I liked to do and see, but one of my favorites was to spend time in the different museums. I spent a lot of my time at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, just because it was close to where we lived, and I had this nice spot in the surrounding park by a small waterfall where I could read and nobody would ever find me. That was my favorite place, but it wasn’t the only spot I liked wandering off to. Another place I also liked to stroll through was the National Palace Museum.

I’ve been thinking this week about a piece of artwork in the National Palace Museum that somebody once told me was Taiwan’s most important and valuable piece of art. When I’d come across the piece, I’d wonder why it was so important. It just looked like a piece of cabbage to me. There were these little grasshoppers or crickets crawling up the leaves that I liked a lot, and the color of the jade was very interesting in the way the white at the bottom would gradate to a nice dark green toward the top. Just like cabbage, I guess.

Now, I don’t really know if that jade cabbage is really as important as I thought, or if it stirs up all sorts of national pride in the Taiwanese people. It could be that my eleven year mind made a big deal out of some random comment. But maybe not. When Chiang Kai-shek was forced to retreated to Taipei during the Chinese Civil War, I imagine his government didn’t have a lot of time to bring many pieces of art. Perhaps the cabbage is a link to mainland China. Maybe looking at that cabbage is a way for the Taiwanese people to remember and feel a link to the history and traditions that they were forced to leave behind.

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