100 Lucky Cabbages

Imin Yeh (2018)

In 100 Lucky Cabbages (2018), CMU School of Art professor Imin Yeh created an edition of 100 hand-painted, life-size, realistic plastic recreations of cabbages. The project was realized with the partial support of Microgrant #2019-002 from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier.

The Chinese characters for Napa Cabbage (白菜) can be separated into two words: 白(bai), a homophone for 百 (the word for the number ‘100’), and 菜, a homophone for 財 (the word for ‘wealth’ or ‘luck’). Thus Napa Cabbages can be found in paintings, as ornaments on ceramic vessels, and as sculptural objects in homes and businesses—not necessarily because of a love of these humble vegetables, but because they are a symbolic totem for the auspicious message of “great wealth”.

100 Lucky Cabbages is a sculpture that utilizes the abstract conceptual power of an object in multiple to give a physical manifestation of a culturally specific pun. As a tonal language, Chinese hosts a plethora of homophones. These homophones are a huge part of Chinese culture, finding their way beyond vernacular puns into poetry and art, particularly within symbology in ornamental design. In 100 Lucky Cabbages, Yeh uses the power of this homophony to create a massive pile, a bounty of bounties that can then be dispersed in individual units to share the wealth.