A Cabbage Plant

Artist: Formerly attributed to Gao Huaibao (10th-11th century)
Historical period(s)
Late Yuan or early Ming dynasty, 14th-15th century
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 128.2 x 60 cm (50 1/2 x 23 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

cabbage, China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)

To 1916
Lai-Yuan and Company, New York, to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Lai-Yuan and Company in 1916 [2]

From 1920
The Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1022, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Lai-Yuan & Company (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1915-April 1921


The illustrious Tang-dynasty poet Du Fu (712-770) lived during a period of great turmoil. Bitter after his once promising government career was stalled, he wrote the poem "Planting Stem Lettuce," using the lettuce as an allegory for wasted and uncultivated talent. Painted images of cabbage, may allude, then, to Du's poem and bear subtle political critiques of corrupt government. However, this quick study of lettuce on a fan suggests that some artists took a more optimistic view, seeing the cabbage as a literal representation of the world. The inscription asserts that if there is abundant lettuce, then the world abounds with prosperity.

Published References
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 190.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Paintings in American Collections. Annales du Musee Guimet. Bibliotheque d'art. Nouvelle serie. II Paris and Brussels, 1927-1928. pl. 107.
  • Mabel Irene Huggins. Vegetables as Chinese Art Motifs. vol. 18, no. 11, November 1963. p. 22.
  • Borhua Wang. Association and Appreciation of Gem Bonsai "Jade Chinese Cabbage" (寶石盆景〈翠玉白菜〉的聯想與賞析). Vol. 444 Taipei City, Taiwan, March 2020. p. 51, fig. 6.
  • Agnes E. Meyer. The Charles L. Freer Collection. vol. 12, no. 2 Brooklyn, August 1927. pp. 62, 64-82, p. 80.
  • Jean Buhot. Arts de la Chine. Arts du Monde Paris. p. 122, pl. 84.
  • Alfreda Murck, Andrew Solomon, Philip Tinari. William Kentridge: Notes Towards a Model Opera. Bejing, China. p. 218.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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