The National Palace Museum in Taipei is so large and so loaded with treasures that it’s impossible to share it all in one post. We set aside a whole day to explore this national treasure and its overwhelming collection—they have 700,000 pieces—not all on display.
I confess that I took more than 200 photos in just a few hours.
Looking back through the pics, I’ve settled on a way to share some of the glory. Green is one of my favourite colours and lots of jade (but not all) is in shades of green. The museum’s collection of jade covers the gamut of colours and carving techniques.
I was never all that interested in jade until we lived in Burma (now Myanmar) in the mid-1980s. Jade was abundant there. So much so that in 2017 a group of miners found a 174-tonne piece of jade worth about US$5 million.
There are actually two types of real jade—nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is mainly a calcium magnesium silicate. Jadeite is rarer and is a sodium aluminium silicate. Myanmar is the source of nearly all of the world’s finest jadeite, which highly prized in neighbouring China where it is known as the ‘stone of heaven’. Brightly coloured jadeite is commonly known as feicui (kingfisher feathers).
Jadeite also occurs in the USA, Guatemala and Japan. Nephrite is most commonly found in China, Russia, Taiwan, USA, New Zealand and Australia.
The Jadeite Cabbage from the Qing Dynasty is one of the museum’s most popular jade pieces. Made in the shape of a head of Chinese cabbage (a bok choy), the carving includes a katydid and a locust camouflaged in the leaves. The craftsman followed the natural colours of the jadeite to turn the green parts into the leaves and the white parts into the stems. This piece was originally part of a decorative setting in the Qing court. We saw it in Taipei, but until May it is being displayed at the southern branch of the museum in Taibao City.
Another popular museum piece is the Meat-shaped Stone. It’s not jade, but banded jasper, a form of agate. The craftsman enhanced the natural banding by staining layers of the stone so that it looked more like pork that had been braised in soy sauce. This piece is usually shown with the cabbage, but it was in on display in Taibao City when we were in Taipei.
I’m still trying to decide which piece is my favourite after the cabbage. What’s yours?