A report in May 2013 claimed that Chinese teenagers were leashing cabbages and taking them for walks with hopes of relieving depression and feelings of isolation.
Reported as a trend in China by such sites as the Metro, the walking cabbage story ended up being no more than a misunderstanding by Western journalists.
From interviews conducted in China, it first appeared that cabbage was viewed as a psychological buffer that was capable of absorbing negative emotions that were projected on to it. It was believed that these feelings could then be discarded along with the vegetable. Wen Chao, a Chinese therapist, was quoted as saying that he felt this kind of therapy could be helpful to the teenagers.
One teenager explained the so-called trend to Metro, “I feel I can transfer my negative thoughts about myself to the cabbage, go for a walk with it and come home feeling better about myself…In fact afterwards, I can throw the cabbage away and feel that I have tossed my feelings out with it.”
Despite the psychological explanations of the “phenomenon,” the “walking cabbage” trend ended up being no more than a performance called Walking the Cabbage in Tiananmen, described by its creator Han Bing as symbol of sustenance and struggle of the poor versus gluttony and waste by the upper class.
Websites such Huffington Post had to edit and retract their original reports on the subject.
There is no trend in China which sees teenagers walking cabbage to combat loneliness. Those “walking” cabbages were actually engaged in a performance art piece.