This mouth-watering chunk of stewed pork belly with a gratuitous layer of fat and glistening sheen is actually a piece of rock—jasper to be exact—that was cleverly carved and dyed to resemble a succulent piece of meat by an anonymous Qing dynasty artist in the 19th-century. Known as the “meat-shaped stone,” the just two-inch-tall sculpture has been the most prized possession of the National Palace Museum in Taiwan for the past two hundred years.
What makes this piece of art so special is that the rock naturally looks like a piece of pork belly, with its layers formed by the accumulation of different impurities. The craftsman who made this took the rich natural resources of the stone and carved it with great precision, even rendering the pores, the wrinkles and dimples on the skin. The stone was then stained giving it a luscious, fleshy appearance.