Chinese Cabbage — Chinese cabbage is a Chinese leaf vegetable commonly used in Chinese cuisine. The vegetable is related to the Western cabbage and of the same species as the common turnip.
Chinese cabbage has been cultivated for over six thousand years in China. Brassica rapa seeds have been found in jars in the excavated New Stone Age settlement of Banpo. They were a common part of the diet in southern China by the 5th century.
The Ming Dynasty pharmacologist Li Shizhen studied the Chinese cabbage for its medicinal qualities. Before this time the Chinese cabbage was largely confined to the Yangtze River Delta region. The Chinese cabbage as it is known today is very similar to a variant bred in Zhejiang around the 14th century. During the following centuries, it became popular in northern China and the northern harvest soon exceeded the southern one. Northern cabbages were exported along the Grand Canal to Zhejiang and as far south as Guangdong.
They were introduced to Korea, where it became the staple vegetable for making kimchi. In the early 20th century, it was taken to Japan by returning soldiers who had fought in China during the Russo-Japanese War. At present, the Chinese cabbage is quite commonly found in markets throughout the world.
There are two distinctly different groups of Brassica rapa used as leaf vegetables in China, and a wide range of varieties within these two groups.