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Chinese Cabbage


HI ART, December, 2007


FaZhi Evening Post reports that the demand for Chinese cabbage has exceeded its supply in the market this year.  The price is 4 times higher than last year, which is an unprecedented record in history.  And it has been rising the whole time.  “The revenue from the 8000 kilograms of cabbage this year is equal to the 20000 kilograms made last year” vegetable farmer sold the last truck of cabbage and joyously claimed.  It is heard that some of the not very successful auction houses are also preparing to join the business.  If they meet an investor who has “a keen eye”, the last bidding price for cabbage may not be less than the cost for contemporary arts.   

According to the largest Beijing vegetable wholesale market—Xinfadi Market, the current price for a catty of cabbage is around RMB 0.75 to 1.15, which is the highest price within the 4 years.  A spokesperson from the Information Centre at Xinfadi Market expressed that the price for cabbage would normally decline while the cucumber would ascend after October.  And the cost for cabbage in mid October would only be half of the beginning of the month.  However, this pattern has not come to life this year.”          

Chinese cabbage, Da Bai Cai in Chinese, is a kind of subspecies of Brassica rapa / genus of flowering plants.  Its leaves, stalks and petiole are eatable.  The agricultural area and total consumption for it remain the largest among all vegetables in China, as well as in the world.  And Chinese people have been eating it for more than 3000 years while the seed was first discovered in ancient village at Xian Banpo area 7000 years ago.  There was also a poem about cabbage in Shi Jing. Guo Feng: “When we gather the mustard plant and earth melons, we do not reject them because of their roots.” Here, the mustard plant refers to Chinese cabbage and the earth melons are carrots.  Until the 19th century, Chinese cabbage was exported to Japan, and other western and European countries.  From this perspective, we could say that we have once again marched to the frontier of the world with this vegetable.   

There are various Chinese cabbages in kinds, such as Shandong cabbage, Beijing cabbage, Tianjiang Green, Dongbei big short cabbage and Shanxi Damaobian.  From the southern area, there are other cultivated types, such as Niaojinbai, silkworm cabbage, cockscomb white and Xueliqing.  Insides the vegetable, there are protein, fat, different vitamins, phosphorous and minerals, as well as a massive amount of fiber.  One can cook it simply by boiling, frying or serving it with sauce or mixing it with other ingredients.  Since Chinese cabbage is so rich in vitamin, it could enhance the flavor of meat while removing the nitrite and similar elements out of it.   

Among the well-known famous Chinese dishes, there are 7 of them that serve with Chinese cabbage, they are: Crab egg with Tianjin cabbage, mustard cabbage, cabbage dumpling, chestnut with cabbage, boiled cabbage, cabbage with mince and cabbage in vinegar.  In addition, there are two streams of handling cabbage: winter conserving and pickling.  Almost every family in Beijing city knows how to make pickled cabbage and everybody—male or female, old or young—loves it.  And often times, many people have so much cabbage that they burp with the taste of it while attending all kinds of elaborate parties.  Even the most respected and fashionable office ladies who work in western companies would need to have cabbage and pork dumplings first, before meeting their western boss at work.  

A few days ago, I dined with my old friend Cui Jian, and two Japanese students who came to China to learn Chinese ink painting.  The meal was not cheap and we even ate mitten crabs—the special product from North Korea, but we all agreed that tiny half of the cabbage which was yet to be fully pickled was the best among the whole table.   

My friend, Cui Jian has a Korean mother and a military father, and everyone in his family is very kind in person. He, himself is also subtle and sober.  It is only when he is performing onstage that one could relate him to rock music.  Having introduced rock music in China so perfectly, he has a hit song-- “Having nothing” and I used to argue with him whether the song belonged to the category of “western trend”, “Chinese folk” or simply rock music.  Now when I think about it, some of my ink paintings are also directly related to rock music or inspired by it. 

After about 30 years of economic reform in China, the living standard has improved a lot and our cultural life has also enriched-- we have seen it all.  But pioneers and good promoters like Teresa Tang, Faye Wong and Cui Jian who can really blend with the East and West are so scarce these days.  Is it because we have not lived in modern China? Or we have never tasted enough Chinese cabbage or Xichun cucumber?  No, I don’t think so.  We have never lived this well, but how come we could only come up with so few cultural figures? 

Chinese cabbage, apart from being a kind of vegetable for food, also has its medical value.  According to Chinese doctors, it is bitter sweet, good for easing the inner heat and anxiety, as well as thirst-quenching, uretic and gastrointestinal soothing.  Having Chinese cabbage frequently can help preventing the lack of vitamin C— Scurvy.  Also, Chinese cabbage can be used to cure fever by the following method: put red sugar, sliced ginger with the root of Chinese cabbage and boil them in water; or simply boil 3 lumps of Chinese cabbage root and 7 lumps of big spring onion root in water with red sugar.  Drink it while hot and swallow all cabbage juice until the last drop.  Hence, the cold will be gone after the sweat in a warm blanket.         

When chopped-up Chinese cabbage gets deeply boiled like cooking soup and is applied on the chilblain area before sleep, the chilblains will be cured in several days (don’t worried about wasting cabbage!).  The Chinese cabbage seed is also useful for treating drunkenness.  For those who are unconsciously drunk, just feed them the effective cabbage seed mixed with Jinghuashui—water from a well.  However, too much Chinese cabbage is not suitable for those who are deficient of vital energy and “cold in stomach” as it may causes uncomfortable feeling or even vomit.  If too much Chinese cabbage is eaten and side-effect appears, one could have fresh ginger to ease the suffering.  When “Shenzhou-5” was shooting up to sky with a man, the astronaut-- Yang Liwei has also brought a packet of Chinese cabbage seeds along.

 After writing this article, it should be time for me to depart for Hong Kong.  Like the song the Chinese female singer—Ai Jing used to sing: “Come, Hurry—1997, I can then go to Hong Kong”.  Time flashes by, and now the individual visit scheme has already been introduced.  People are rushing to Hong Kong as if going to Tianjian.  Of course, I would not be heading to the Hong Kong Coliseum like a Pop idol.  As a painter, I could only go to galleries.  My old partner—Plum Blossoms Gallery is celebrating their 20 years of promoting Chinese Contemporary Art and I think my solo exhibition will certainly mark a beautiful closure for their anniversary.

 Due to this exhibition, Newsweek, International Herald Tribune, Asian Art News and Sydney Morning Herald all came for an interview.  We talked about various topics and almost all reporters ended the interview with one question.  They asked me if I could give foreign collectors an advice since the Chinese Contemporary Art market is such a great hit right now.  My answer is: “Yes, it is a big hit, but it has nothing to do with local cultures in China and there is nothing entirely fascinating.  There is too much imitation of western art and they are not really sophisticated.  If you put whomever you think is the best Chinese artist among the context of the Global Contemporary Art scene, he/ she could only come as second class.  There is no need to put the money you are supposed to buy masterpieces on works that are yet to mature.”


Zhu Wei

Monday, 19 November, 2007







Chinese Cabbage





大白菜英文名Chinese Cabbage。十字花科芸薹属一年生、二年生草本植物。以柔嫩的叶球、莲座叶或花茎供食用。栽培面积和消费量在中国居各类蔬菜之首,世界第一,而且三千多年前中国人就吃上了,七千年前西安半坡原始村落就有白菜籽发现。同时还有词儿,《诗经·谷风》中就有“采葑采菲,无以下体”,葑就是白菜,菲乃萝卜。直到十九世纪才传入日本、欧美西洋各国,就白菜这事我们又走在世界前列了。白菜种类很多,有山东大白菜、北京青白、天津绿、东北大矮白菜、山西大毛边。南方大白菜由北方引种,品种有乌金白、蚕白菜、鸡冠白、雪里青。白菜含有蛋白质、脂肪、各种维生素和钙、磷等矿物质以及大量粗纤维。用于炖、炒、熘、拌以及做馅、配菜都中。特别是白菜含较多维生素,与肉类同吃,既可增添肉的鲜美味,又可减少肉中的亚硝酸盐和亚硝酸盐类物质。白菜在中国有七道名菜:“蟹黄扒津白”、“白菜芥末墩”、“大白菜水饺”、“栗子娃娃菜”、“开水白菜”、“松茸娃娃菜”、“醋熘白菜”。还有冬储和腌白菜两大流派。北京城几乎家家都会腌白菜,不论男女老少,人人都爱吃。很多人都是打着白菜嗝去参加各种体面的Party。就连最体面时尚的外企白领也没觉得吃完猪肉白菜馅饺子再去见老外上司是件丢人的事。前几天和老友崔健、以及两个日本来中国学水墨画的留学生去吃北朝鲜饭,价格不便宜,北韩特产的毛蟹也吃了,一大桌子,最后大家还是觉得那半颗整的就端上来还没腌透的大白菜最好吃。崔健的母亲是鲜族人,父亲是军人,一家人很善良,崔健本人为人低调,朴实,只有在台上演出的时候你才觉得他和摇滚乐有关系。而且他让摇滚乐在中国落地落得那样天衣无缝,以至于以前我总是和他争辩《一无所有》到底是“西北风”“黄土高坡”还是摇滚。我画的一些水墨画和摇滚乐有关,一些是受摇滚乐的启发弄出来到的。中国改革开放近三十年,人们的生活水平真的是提高了不少,文化生活也丰富了很多,啥都见过了。但像邓丽君、王菲、崔健这样既“土”又“洋”的创作者、传播者少之又少。是大家没在中国生活过吗?没吃过大白菜,拍黄瓜吗?我想不会,以前的中国谁能比谁日子过得好多少?为什么只出来这几个? 



因为这个展览,前几天《NEWSWEEK》、《国际先驱论坛》、《ASIAN ART NEWS》《悉尼先驱晨报》专门来做了访问,东拉西扯,白话完之后,几乎所有记者的最后一个问题,都是现在中国当代艺术这么火,你能否给国外的藏家们一个忠告?我的回答是:火是火,但是跟中国本土文化并没挂起钩来,没有出现连帮带瓤都特别过硬的东西。中国当代艺术家学西方的成分太多,而且半生不熟,拿目前你们认为最好的艺术家到世界当代艺术中去比,也顶多是二流中等偏下。别拿买大师作品的钱去买一个还不够成熟的作品。