About the Artwork

Wellspring by artist Rene Yung

Artwork by Rene Yung at the International District/Chinatown Branch
Artwork by Rene Yung at the International District/Chinatown Branch

120 teacups form a large oval on the wall above the stacks. A display of teacups is installed in an interior window. Etched glass art on both sides of the window feature relevant quotes and information about some of the cups.

Internally lit, clear resin cubes are placed at the entry and in the stacks; a single teacup floats in each.

About the Artist

A San Francisco-based artist, writer and designer, Rene Yung grew up in colonial Hong Kong before emigrating to the United States as a teenager. Her installations combine image, object and text to explore issues of culture, identity, language, and the multilayered experiences of people who leave their homelands. She has been commissioned to create public artworks by the Seattle Arts Commission, City of Oakland Cultural Arts Division, On Lok Senior Health Services, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Artist's inspiration

The well nourishes and is not exhausted.

- The I-Ching

Wellspring draws from the idea of essential nourishment represented by the library and its community. The cup is a simple but potent symbol across cultures because it is a vessel that brings the primal substance - water - to our lips. Among the diverse cultures of Seattle's International District/Chinatown, the teacup also symbolizes hospitality and traditions that enrich the community. Wellspring is a collection of teacups donated by the community, each cup an individual well of nourishment, and jointly, a gathering of goodwill and vitality.

I hope the artwork will help patrons, the Library and the community deepen their relationships. The stories behind the teacups are touching and remarkable, and often connect to one another. Thus, Wellspring also is a celebration of the storms in teacups, which far from trifling, are the stuff of life, and the subject of all the volumes of all libraries.

- International District/Chinatown Branch artist Rene Yung

...humanity has ...met in the teacup

- Kakuzo Okakura

Stories about the donated cups

Nancy Burrill

My first grade class makes tea cups each year as part of our Asian study. This was made by Daniel in 2004.

Asuka A. Lee

Porcelain tea bowl used in Japanese tea ceremony. Ivory, rounded, footed bowl with overglaze enamel painting of flowers and Japanese folding fans.

This Japanese teacup is used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Its design, being wide and deep, is for the whisk to blend the tea and water well enough to create a smooth, delicious taste. My grandmother gave me this cup when I was about to leave for the United States as an exchange student.

I presented the tea ceremony for my host family and the Japanese class of the high school that I attended. Ever since, I have carried this teacup to many places to introduce the Japanese tea ceremony.

For the last two years, I have demonstrated the Japanese tea ceremony every quarter at Shoreline Community College for the Japanese Club. People are always eager to learn the philosophy that lies beneath the ceremony and I am always grateful to share my culture with them.

Robert Peng

Artist Robert Peng made this cup to symbolize a laughing mouth. "XiaoKou ChangKai" - constantly opens up a laughing mouth.

Jeremy O. Simer

I work for a small non-profit on Maynard Avenue, just a couple of blocks from the new library. We've been here for three years and every day I've felt fortunate to be surrounded by the rich cultural and historical legacy of Seattle's International District.

(This is) a teacup from Turkey, where my father is from. Though I don't know of any other Turks in the I.D., in some ways I've felt at home here. Many anthropologists believe Turks are distant cousins of the Japanese and Koreans, originally inhabiting Mongolia and later moving through Central and Western Asia. Among other cultural traits we share with East Asians, Turks revere elders, take off shoes indoors, and drink tea. Lots of tea, served all day, every day, in Turkish homes, shops and offices, a ubiquitous show of hospitality.

This crystal teacup has the typical flower shape seen in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. It's donated by Gencer Gokeri, owner of Istanbul Imports, and his brother, Ilker. I told them about your project and they cheerfully agreed to donate a cup and saucer. I'm delivering it with a teaspoon I bought two years ago in Istanbul, in a little shop at the end of the Silk Road.

Ka lun Yuen (Karen)

A blue handmade teacup. There are shapes of fish on the surface. I made this teacup at Green River Community College after I emigrated from Hong Kong to Seattle. Everything was strange to me, and difficult to me, because I did not know English. It looks like the two fish are swimming to a strange world, which is unclear and seems to lose protection. They are scared to swim forward slowly to adapt to a new world.

Special thanks to:

  • Bob Fisher and the Wing Luke Asian Museum for managing the collection and storage of the teacups
  • The donors who contributed cups
  • The individuals who contributed their energy and time to the project