What is Bicultural Healthy Living?

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Bicultural Healthy Living is the ability of immigrants and refugees to bridge two cultures, the American mainstream culture and their culture of origin, into one that allows them to live healthfully and happily.  By leading a bicultural healthy lifestyle, we hope that Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities can find a path that allow both their Asian/Pacific islander and American culture to co-exist with the ability to use one or both cultural protective factors when needed.  This blog will explore the various ways and strategies to improve the health of AAPIs and the community as a whole by living a bicultural healthy lifestyle.

The Versatility of Buddhist Cuisine

Rooted in compassion for all life, non-violence, and mindfulness, Buddhist cuisine is one of the hallmarks of vegetarian cooking. As Buddhist practice traveled across Asia and to the West, the doctrines influenced the diet of the Buddhist community, creating a colorful and harmonious culinary culture. In some Buddhist communities there are quite strict dietary regulations that must be observed, such as not eating any strong or pungent vegetable or seasoning. This means that onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, and ginger, would not be used. In other sects these flavors are acceptable so as long as they are used sparingly, or to just add enough flavor, nothing to excite the taste buds too much. Regardless of what is used, so as long as it is prepared mindfully and for the benefit of sustaining life it is acceptable.

Many Buddhists in the Theravada tradition eat meat, however some also observe a vegetarian diet as well. One surprising fact is that the Buddha was not actually a vegetarian, he did eat meat only if it were offered to him. In China, tofu became a major source of protein for the Buddhist communities practicing the Mahayana tradition. Tofu is packed with nutrients, protein, and iron, it’s also flavorful and very filling too!. When mashed it can be used in mock meat dishes, when sliced it can be fried, hence the reason it’s such a popular choice food among vegetarians across the world. Some studies have shown that tofu can even reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Vietnamese Buddhist cuisine is light and refreshing, and also uses lots of tofu. In vietnam many kinds of mock meats are made by using dried tofu skins and wheat gluten (Mock duck). One very versatily and exceptionally yummy vegan dish is Vietnamese vegan ham. This mock ham has a light flavor, with hints of black pepper and essence of bamboo leaves. Its often eaten on it’s own or in banh mi, noodles, and soups. If you have never tried Buddhist cuisine immerse yourself in your local Buddhist communities, there is a wealth of knowledge that has survived generations. Buddhist chefs have mastered the art of mindful cooking, this way of preparing ones meals can be helpful in our daily lives, it teaches us that we can prepare a lot with just a little, and to appreciate the food as nourishment for the body, mind, and the heart.

The Beauty of Asian American Art

Asian American art tells a story of pride, history, culture, and identity. It beautifully weaves cultural diversity and fusion, embracing the three times, present, past, and future. It tells the stories of families, of philosophy, and also it expresses the strength and resilience of the AAPI communities. Within this unbroken view, Asian American art also expresses the cultural identities of East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, and beyond, welcoming collaboration from many cultural diasporas. In this blog post we will highlight the beautiful art of a few AAPI artists.

“Art has really been the way I have been able to understand both cultures, and to undo the wrongdoing of both cultures.”

~Bernice Bing, abstract/expressionist painter

Brenda Chi

“I am currently comforting and celebrating my AAPI heritage through food, celebration of AAPI culture, language, and my family. This can also be seen as a self-portrait, as much of my identity is being an AAPI artist, so everything connects. This illustration features some of my favorite childhood foods, listening and speaking in Cantonese, celebrating my ancestors’ beauty through my self-expression, burning joss paper, praying to my family to wish us well, gratitude to my family, and claiming my space as an American Born Chinese (ABC) woman. This piece is inspired by vintage Chinese cigarette advertisements, which I’ve interpreted into a more intentional Chinese American illustration, with colors inspired by Cantonese Rose patterned porcelain. As a second generation Chinese immigrant, I often find myself researching my own Cantonese heritage as much hasn’t been taught to me. As I create this art, I am also learning about my AAPI heritage, which I think is really healing for anyone in Asian diaspora.”

Brenda Chi is a multidisciplinary artist and art director based in Los Angeles. View more of Brenda’s work here: Portfolio / Instagram.

Ameena Fareeda / Eye Open at the Close

“Growing up Indian-Asian American, there were many instances in which I struggled with connecting to my identity. I would feel as though I played tug-of-war with my own Asian and American personas. As I got older, I learned to appreciate my culture and identity as a proud Asian American. The peacock is the national bird of India which symbolizes race, pride, and beauty. A peacock’s feathers are truly iconic. They spread not only for mating purposes, but also for means of boasting and protection. The feathers’ resemblance to eyes are known to be a symbol to ward off bad luck and attract positivity.

Eye Open at the Close represents how I navigate in today’s society as an Indian-Asian American. In light of the recent increase in hate crimes towards the AAPI community, it is vital to preserve and uplift the diversity, strengths, and uniqueness within the community. Eye Open at the Close raises awareness to the public eye and expresses how strong and beautiful the AAPI community truly is.”

Ameena Fareeda is an illustrator and designer based in Silver Spring, Maryland. View Ameena’s work here: Portfolio / Instagram.

Eunsoo Jeong / Koreangry

“I’ve been making zines since 2016, and it has been my way of expressing myself. It started as a means to cope with my anxiety and depression but over the years, I’ve gained the confidence to own those narratives and turn it into humor. As a formerly undocumented immigrant, I had a hard time connecting with my identity as an Asian American, because I didn’t see many undocumented Asian Americans and didn’t know how to celebrate or to have pride within myself. In early 2020, I published Koreangry zine issue #8, that featured my Korean American history timeline after conducting self-driven research to understand and see what my roots were in this country. This showed me different perspectives on how we can define our identities regardless of what we are told to believe based on our immigration status in this country. By making zines based on my life experiences, I was able to connect with lots of AAPI folks across the country who could relate to my stories. During the grueling pandemic year, I felt isolated and lonelier than usual. Throughout that time, I pushed ideas that may challenge our AAPI communities (confronting anti-Blackness, defunding police), provided educational and informative comics (know your rights during protests, bystander intervention), and shared vulnerable confessions of my struggles and experiences living in this country today.

This artwork is a collage of my yearning desire to do ‘good’ despite the challenging struggles of being an immigrant today during the pandemic––the pressure of being a good, kind, nice, humble, grateful, by-the-book immigrant. Sharing my story through zine-making is how I connect with other AAPI groups, by accepting and rejecting, challenging, rebuilding, and redefining what our identities could be.”

Eunsoo Jeong is an artist based in Los Angeles. View more of Eunsoo’s work here: Portfolio / Instagram.

By creating art we honor our ancestors, respect our cultures, and learn about other cultures. Creating art is a way to promote peace and freedom of expression. It joins forces, strengthens roots, and leaves a wider and beautiful landscape for future generations to enjoy. Art is our voice, heart, and soul, to create art means to be present with all of who you are.

Heritage Art Vocabulary in Mandarin

  • 艺术 ( Yi shu ) – Art
  • 文化 ( Wen hua ) – Culture
  • 画画 ( Hua hua ) – Drawing
  • 戏剧 ( Xi ju ) – Drama
  • 表演 (Biao yan) – Performance

Reference:https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2021/05/28/asian-american-artists-aapi-heritage

Embracing Your True Self

Have you ever sat down and thought to yourself ” Who am I’, or “What is my life purpose”?. These thoughts have crossed many of our minds, and sometimes we actually may not have an immediate answer, and this is ok. In one’s journey on this planet we are constantly learning, and through learning our world we can learn about ourselves. To embrace one’s true self means to fully accept who you are. Society, and even family expectations can make it challenging, but this journey is yours.

Embracing yourself requires reflection, contemplation, going within your mind to know your mind. It is a process, a moment in life for you to be totally present with your being. All of who you are is here today, to live and to experience this world. When you can embrace yourself, you can walk with confidence and a pure heart. Oftentimes there are moments when we feel a little insecure, or a bit anxious, it may be because of what someone has said, or maybe a different reason. Whatever that reason may be, remember that all of existence has formed you in the here and the now, let go of any negativity and continue shining bright in the world.

To embrace yourself is to be beautiful, you are going against the expectations of others and living a life that is true to you. It is liberation, it is joy, it is inner-peace, this is what it means to embrace yourself. Our cultures are unique, ancient, diverse, and we all reflect the beauty of our cultures. Embracing yourself also means to embrace your cultural heritage, and in fully embracing who you are, you become a light that can guide others in doing the same. Let us make the world a beautiful place.

Jarrelle

Healing Through Art

Healing can take many forms, through movement, through sound, or through visual expressions; art has been used to speak when words can not. Since the Covid-19 pandemic many Asian Americans have taken up different forms of creative and artistic approaches in combating trauma and fostering healing. In this blog post we will share a few pieces of visual art that paints a picture of hope, healing, and identity.

Nicole Kang Ahn (b. 1988)
Remembrance, 2022
Digital print on Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Remembrance is based on a photo taken by the artist during a visit to the makeshift memorial at Gold Spa in the days following the shooting. It captures a moment of quiet reflection – a young girl and her grandmother lean on each other for support, surrounded by flowers and handwritten dedications. It is a reminder that while our wounds are intergenerational, so too are the ways we show caring and healing. 

“I wanted to first remember the victims.” 

Nicole Kang Ahn (b. 1988) is a painter, illustrator, and muralist from Peachtree Corners, Georgia. Her art means to slow down time and capture mundane moments, savoring each feeling and memory. Her three pieces included in this collection seek to tell a story that remembers the victims, honors their lives, and conveys a message of hope.

Image Description: This artwork is about remembrance. This is an illustration of the Gold Spa store front where an altar of community notes and flowers are sprawled across the front of the spa and an elder with short dark hair, a brown long sleeve shirt, and brown bag is kneeling and embracing a young child with brown shoulder-length hair, wearing a purple long sleeve shirt looking towards the altar. The Gold Spa was the site of one of the shootings that took place on March 16, 2021.

Natalie Bui (b. 1992)
Community Care, 2022
Digital print on Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

In Vietnamese, the expression “chia buồn” is used to express condolences. “Chia buồn” literally translates to “divide sadness.” The expression captures the act of dividing grief – of cutting it into small, little, pieces to split among each other so that each of us individually carries a much lighter load. Community Care shows four figures locked in a comforting embrace. Their limbs are entangled and each person leans on the collective, both resting upon and supporting those around them. 

Community care requires us to harness our power, privilege, and empathy to uplift the people who are both in and out of the reach of our embrace. In the wake of the anniversary, this piece inspires us to recommit to expanding and deepening our community of care for all, beginning in Atlanta and spreading throughout the country and the world.

“We were talking about a traumatic moment within our movement. But also trying to balance the acts of community care when these moments happen.” 

Natalie Bui (b. 1992) is a Vietnamese American digital illustrator and co-Founder of SHIFT – a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy. Her work centers on self and community empowerment and emphasizes collective liberation across communities.

Image Description: The theme of this artwork is community care with four women embracing one another and the words “CAN I HOLD YOU?” below the image. The women appear with different hair styles in different shades of purple and different shades of orange, pink and red on their skin. There are shades of purple and blue leaves coming out from behind the two women at the end of each embrace and shades of orange, pink, purple and magenta flowers on the women’s skin. The backdrop of this image shows a gradient of orange and pink flowers.

Nicole Kang Ahn (b. 1988)
Solidarity, 2022
Digital print on Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

In this illustration, a diverse group of people of all races, genders, ages, and dis/abilities is featured in the foreground. They are holding boldly colored signs that call attention to a range of social and political issues that are often framed as separate, but are actually deeply intertwined. The shadowed figures behind them gesture to the powerful histories of resistance and community organizing that came before them. As we mark the anniversary of the Atlanta shooting, this piece reminds us that this tragedy is steeped in layers of oppression and interconnected histories of systemic violence. As such, it is a call to action to come together for a more powerful response rooted in love and solidarity.

“Gather together with other people. Align your issues and your values and do something about it.” 

Image Description: This image is all about racial solidarity with a diverse group of people of all races, genders, ages, and dis/abilities holding signs that read “YOUR ASIAN WASN’T QUIET; NO MUSLIM BAN EVER; WORKERS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS; I CAN’T BREATHE; THE FUTURE IS NON BINARY; PROTECT OUR ELDERS; HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT; ABOLISH ICE; BLACK LIVES MATTER; Stand Up Speak Up; NOT ONE MORE; Smash the Hierarchy; My body, My choice; BUILD COMMUNITIES NOT CAGES.” The people holding up signs appear centered on the image with shades of purple shadows behind them.

The diversity within the Asian community is vast and covers many languages, beliefs, and traditions. By creating art communities join forces in shared experiences, creating a universal language that goes beyond differences. Art unifies diversity within the Asian communities by sharing narratives, personal expression, and one’s own personal journey. Embracing art as a form of healing gives birth to the celebration of one’s own cultural heritage, diversity, and resilience.

Reference:https://www.advancingjustice-atlanta.org/art-exhibit

Lunar New Year

Across the globe many Asian families are preparing for Lunar new year 2024, year of the wood dragon. The wood dragon is said to bring a year of creativity, success, challenges and also new opportunities. This ancient and legendary creature holds high importance in Asian culture, a symbol of nobility, power, luck and success.

During these festive times one can notice the bright colors of red and gold, symbolizing good fortune, prosperity, abundance and hard work. It’s a common practice to adorn ones home with fresh fruit such as oranges, symbolizing wealth, and apples which are symbolic for safety and peace. Families typically get together to prepare large meals which are then blessed and offered to one’s ancestors. Some families will spend new years at their local Buddhist temple to receive blessings, pray, meditate, and give offerings of incense, food, and good wishes.

Some of the most common activities during the new year include putting up new year decor, giving offerings to ancestors, eating family reunion dinner, giving hong bao or red envelopes to youth and relatives, and enjoying the dragon or lion dance! Artists will sometimes come together sharing their arts, these are usually traditional Asian arts such as calligraphy, paper cutting or folding, cooking worships and demonstrations, and knot tying. If you’ve never experienced Lunar new year before take this upcoming opportunity to visit your local Asian community to experience a festive cultural time! Xin Nian Kuai Le, Happy New Year!

Reference:https://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/

Art of Asian Baking

Photo credit: tastylittledumpling.com

Everyone can agree that desserts are amazing! You may enjoy super sweet, or just a bit more savory, either way, Asian desserts has you covered! Asian baked goods bring the traditional flavors of the East with the flavors of the west, creating a variety of yummy treats to satisfy your cravings. This culinary fusion binds cultural traditions that are groundbreaking and innovative, bringing new flavors, ingredients, and artistry to the art of baking. In this blog post, we will highlight the tasty wonders of Asian baking.

For many Asian Americans, Chinatown bakeries bring back nostalgic memories. Here in Minnesota Keefer Court became a much beloved Chinese bakery, serving world class Hong Kong baked goodies. Almost everyone I talked to asked ” Have you been to Keefer Court, their pastries are amazing”, so, what did I do? Got on my shoes and headed that way! I remember being greeted with warmth and hospitality, and the wonderful fragrance of Chinese pastries as well! I ordered their mooncakes, which at that time I think had lotus seed filling, I also ordered pineapple buns. Yum yum yum, the first bite is pure satisfaction! Luckily, Keefer Court will be opening again at Asia Mall in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

In Vietnam there are colorful and refreshing desserts such as bánh bo nuong which is a type of Vietnamese sponge cake, usually made with rice flour, tapioca starch, pandan, and coconut cream. This sponge cake has a honeycomb like appearance when cut, hence the common name “Vietnamese honeycomb cake”. Many Chinese bakeries have mooncakes with a variety of fillings, some being more traditional, like lotus seed, red bean, or salted duck egg, while others are a bit more modern and experimental. This fusion of tradition and cultures creates a timeless tapestry that will inspire minds and satisfy the sweet tooth for many years to come.

What We Look Like

This blog post will share the experiences of, culture, and identity of 11 Asian-American artists.

Violence and racism towards Asian-Americans is not new in the United States, it laid hidden in American society until the Covid-19 Pandemic brought it out, revealing the deeply ingrained hate in the U.S. Many Asian Americans have been blamed for the Covid-19 virus, rising hate crimes and incidents of targeted violence were also on the rise. The term “Asian American” covers many cultures within the Asian diaspora, and it must be noted that these cultures have their own unique traditions, practices, languages, and identities. One can not group all Asian peoples together under one group because there are differences culturally and linguistically. These portraits share the complex expressions of Asian identity, representation, and culture by using art as a vehicle of expression.

“My parents are among many other Asian parents who cannot express their feelings/love straight. Before I grew to understand that, I hardly felt loved. Instead of saying “Good job” my parents would say sarcastically I could be better. After I grew up and absorbed more American culture. I learned to be more expressive, and I started to appreciate my parents’ subtlety of expressing love. It’s quiet but it’s stronger.”

Shuhua Xiong
BORN IN SHANGHAI, CHINA TO CHINESE PARENTS

“My Asian-American experience is defined by memorizing the lyrics to Jay Chou songs without knowing their translations, and learning how to play mahjong, because my Mandarin proficiency starts at Chinese numbers and stops at cardinal directions. The exciting part is that one’s relationship to culture is never clearly defined. It ebbs and flows; it is constantly evolving.”

Gabrielle Widjaja
AMERICAN BORN TO CHINESE-INDONESIAN PARENTS

“Like many children of immigrants, I was taught the value of good work ethics by watching my parents toil and overcome endless hardships. I believe I am celebrating my Asian-American culture and honoring my parents as well.”

Sally Deng
AMERICAN BORN TO CHINESE PARENTS

“Public school was my first exposure to Western customs. I learned English in school and spoke Cantonese at home. I ate cafeteria PB&J for lunch and rice for dinner. I don’t remember a time where the duality of my identity was not on my mind. I felt a stronger desire to return to my roots. It’s a shift I’ve witnessed not only in myself, but in Asian-Americans as a whole. In the last couple of years we have become more visible and more heard. It has made me feel less alone and injected me with more pride.”

Joan Wong
AMERICAN BORN TO HONG KONG PARENTS

“My mother is Chinese, my father is American. I spent my childhood on the tropical island of Taiwan. Years later, when we moved to the States, I would become obsessed with how others would perceive me. In many ways those memories growing up in Taiwan really formed my identity and left a strong impression on who I am today, even after making my own path all these years later. My identity has become one of the things I’ve thought about my entire life.”

Josh Cochran
CHINESE-AMERICAN BORN IN OREGON; LIVED IN TAIWAN

Art is a powerful tool of expression, it can be emotional, it can tell a story. Color and brush stroke fused with the vision of the artist creates a vivid image for viewers to ponder. These portraits capture the life stories, challenges, and cultures of the artist.

Reference:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/06/us/coronavirus-race-artists-asian-american-identity.html

A Splash Of Eternity

A great artist was born in 1899 in the Sichuan province and his name was Zhang Daqian. His family was an artistic family that converted to Catholicism. Zhang Daqian studied traditional Chinese painting (Guohua) and by the 1960’s he became the worlds greatest artist with his forte being expressionism. Zhang’s works are elegant and bold, abstract, and yet so real, one can hear birds and feel the mountain mist whole enjoying Zhang’s works, which are also said to rival Picasso.

Zhang Da Qian (1965), Photo by Orion Museum

Notice the space of his compositions, well balanced, with a natural look. His mastery of splashing blues and greens on rice paper can truly be appreciated by any arts enthusiast. Zhang’s work blends tradition with the modern, not erasing the roots but embracing them, and with his talent creating a new technique called ink splashing. Yet did he know he would inspire the world with his mastery of watercolor.

His displays of blue and green are his signature trait which creates an illusion of light on leaves, fog at the foot of a mountain, or stone. Zhang’s paintings definitely are a splash of infinity and create breath taking landscapes that will forever be priceless history. To view his art is to view the creation of a true water color artist, an expert of our times.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang_Dai-chien

The Art Of Vietnamese Calligraphy

Thu Phap, or calligraphy has a long history in Vietnam. In the past Vietnamese used Chu Nom or Chinese characters to represent Vietnamese words. Chu Nom is very complex and is not widely used today. Vietnamese calligraphy is the perfect example of multicultural artistry. The Vietnamese masterfully write latin letters with a brush and ink, bold and thin lines creating a visually stunning art the highlights the beauty of Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese calligraphy was strongly influenced by Chinese calligraphy. During the Ly dynasty the style of writing was very similar to that of China’s Tang dynasty (618-907), and during the Tran dynasty the style was similar to China’s Song (960-1279), and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. In the late Le dynasty Vietnam created its own unique style called Nam tu or Southern Script. This script was used for bureaucracy only but then became popular for all writing purposes.

During the Free Poetry Movements Chữ quốc ngữ became popular, creating a new form of art. Thư Pháp embodies the essence of Vietnams rich cultural heritage, evolving into a distinct and revered tradition. Vietnamese calligraphy is not only an artistic practice, it is also a spiritual one. Thư Pháp is about the connection between the artist, the ink, the paper and the word to be written, it’s a balance of spirit and art in perfect harmony. Vietnamese calligraphy holds great cultural and spiritual significance. The beautiful art adorns temples, shrines, and historical monuments, connecting the past and the present. Vietnamese people hold lots of respect for calligraphers in Vietnamese society.

~Photo Credit-VNonline/VietNamNet

Photo Credit- Wikipedia

Today Vietnamese calligraphers use many different materials to write on, wood, glass, and metal can all be used to write Thư Pháp. Sometimes people may even be so inspired by the calligraphy they get calligraphy tattooed on their bodies. This art form has evolved alongside spirituality in Vietnam, making it a profound and sacred practice that is uniquely Vietnamese.

Reference: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/calligraphy-in-vietnam-554557.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_calligraphy

Yummy Boba Tea

Photo by Caitlin Abrams

Boba tea is a much beloved beverage enjoyed across the world, many people are familiar with this tasty sweet drink, however do we know the history of its origins? Boba tea actually originated in Taiwan, in 1986 two tea shops named Chun Shui Tang and Han lin Tea Room both claim the creation of boba tea. “When we started to drink iced tea, we found there was a lot of variation. So my dad started to think, what else can we do?” says Angela Liu, the daughter of the founder of Chun Shui Tang. Story has it that Angela Liu’s father, Liu Han-Chieh, asked his staff to experiment with different textures and toppings, and one of the staff decided to add tapioca balls, hence the creation of boba tea. In Tainan, at the Hanlin Tea Room, its founder was inspired by the tapioca balls he saw at his local market. “He’d been thinking for a couple of days how to increase the value of his drink, when he suddenly noticed the starch balls in sugar water that a grandmother was selling,” “He thought: why is this only paired with sugar? So he added it to tea.” Jack Huang, operations manager at Hanlin Tea Room.

The tea became so popular that both claiming teashops took it court, which ended up in a decade long legal battle over who owns boba tea. In 2019 the courts decided that since boba tea was not patented they would dismiss the case. Boba balls are made from a mix of water, sugar and different starches. Then the boba dough mixture is rolled into tiny balls that are boiled till they are chewy. Because of its soft and supple texture, cassava root is the main starch used , however for a firmer finish sweet potato starch is used. The distinctive dark brown caramel color comes from using brown sugar instead of white sugar. The earlier boba teas were made from sweetened black iced tea, milk, and lactose free creamer. Today there is such a larger variety of boba tea available, many are made from jasmine tea, oolong tea, tieguanyin tea, and some are even made with fruit based drinks.

If you can’t make it to Taiwan to try boba tea, don’t fret, you can try in Minnesota too! You can find boba tea in St Paul, Minneapolis, and in other locations. Some of the most well known boba tea shops in Minnesota are:

  • Tii Cup
  • Sencha Tea Bar
  • Feng Cha
  • Pa Tea and Poke
  • Tiger Sugar

If you have not tried this delicious Taiwanese drink you are missing out!

Reference: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/what-is-boba-bubble-tea-taiwan https://mspmag.com/eat-and-drink/it-s-boba-tea-time/