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.
Sculpture by Li Dehua
Many countries across the globe have used gourds for culinary traditions, building instruments and even art! With its durable material, once dried, it becomes perfect for carved sculptures. In China the gourd or Hulu 葫芦 symbolizes fortune and wealth because it sounds so similar to Hulu. The gourd seeds are also a symbol of fertility and productivity. For thousands of years the Chinese have used gourds for carrying water, displays, erasing negative energy, and carvings. Artists use different gourds with unique shapes for carvings, expressing their creativity, skill, and mastery.
It’s said that the gourd is one of the eight treasures of Feng Shui, and bringing one in the home can remove negative energies, illnesses and also attract fortune. The gourd is the symbol of Li Tieguai, one of the eight immortals, who has the power to liberate his soul from his body. This symbol of longevity is very important in Chinese culture, and has influenced this beautiful art form. Records of gourd artwork first appeared in the Ming Dynasty 1368-1644 in history books, and can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Artists use many techniques of creating art with gourds, painting, carving, shaping and polishing to name a few. The trick to this art form is to not alter the natural shape of the gourd but to instead highlight it’s natural beauty with the use of paintings or carving. The most valuable artworks are those that have not been altered much, showcasing the natural aesthetic of the gourd. Gourd art that has not been altered much has the highest artistic value and is quite prized.
With flavors encompassing global culinary traditions, multicultural cooking has become the food of the future. So much of our identities and cultures are tied directly to our food! By learning about foods from around the world, we learn more about ourselves, and we learn a non verbal language that expresses friendship and love. Multicultural cooking brings people together through the language of food and love, enlightening people to new perspectives and enriching our tastebuds with new flavors and textures. The use of different spices, sauces, herbs, and cooking techniques creates a symphonic experience on the palate and opens doors to new rich and ancient culinary cooking techniques.
Food is a way of living, and our food reflects our cultural identities. On different occasions our food may also highlight our cultural and religious values. On Chinese New Year it is common for families to gather together for making dumplings, each dumpling is made by hand, a little pouch filled with love. Sometimes on certain days food may also be offered to ancestors, set on a shrine with incense and candles, prayers and flowers may also be offered in their honor. Many diverse multicultural families will have a colorful array of different foods for New Years, or even for every day meals! For example, dumplings from China, Indian curry, Vietnamese salads, and American BBQ. Every family has their own way, and their own unique ways of preparing cultural foods.
The beauty of multicultural cuisine is certainly in its skillful and innovative use of ingredients and creative ways of blending flavors. When different cultures interact, a new food is born, creating new culinary masterpieces. Home chefs, and professional culinary experts both enjoy experimenting with new flavors and new ingredients, using techniques from different cultures, which leads to an exciting cross-cultural culinary experience.
The Shamisen is a traditional Japanese 3 stringed instrument, shamisen meaning ” three strings” in Japanese. This lute like instrument has its origins in China where it is named sanxian, also meaning ” 3 strings” in Chinese. Both Shamisen and Sanxian were instruments used by common folk, and the history of the pieces played on these instruments reflects its evolution through the centuries. The Shamisens construction varies, usually changing depending on musical genre. Shamisen used in Kabuki are usually called Nagauta Shamisen, and shamisen from the northern Tsugaru peninsula is called Tsugaru Shamisen. Nagauta Shamisen music is very elegant, with unique tone bends and ornamentations that highlights this musical genres flavors. Tsugaru folk music is a bit more intense, fast in tempo and incredibly complex, exciting and very bright to the listeners ears. Below are some videos of Shamisen in all its glory:
Here is a video of Nagauta shamisen
Here is a video of Tsugaru shamisen
This traditional Japanese instrument has gracefully found its way into the modern world, captivating the global audience and leaving music enthusiasts in awe. With only 3 strings, a pick ( bachi) and a sound chamber, this instruments simple construction reflects its long history. Although this instrument is steeped in tradition it has become popular in many contemporary pieces and genres, highlighting its versatility. In the hands of skilled innovative musicians the shamisens voice carries the voice and soul of ancient Japan into contemporary musical genres.
The Yoshida Brothers have become masters of both traditional and contemporary music taking the world by surprise with their virtuosity. Here they have transformed shamisen music, bridging east and west.
Music is a language, and the shamisen in modern music is creating new possibilities for cross cultural musical conversation. This cross cultural conversation enlightens us, teaching music enthusiasts the many unique ways of expressions across the globe. As Japans national instrument, the shamisen will add a new flavor to the global palette for many generations to come.
The twin cities is a culturally diverse place with an incredibly active art scene. Every year in the Twin Cities artists join forces creating incredible multicultural art. The Twin cities is also home to Somali, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, African American, Mexican, German, Lebanese, Hmong, Thai, Cambodian, Indian ethnicities and more! The Twin Cities is certainly a cultural melting pot of ethnicities.
Over the last 30 years Minnesotas culture has been influenced by recent immigrants who brought their traditional arts, music, poetry, painting, and fabric works to Minnesota. These traditional crafts have fused with the existing cultural arts of Native Americans, African Americans and Europeans. This diverse and collaborative fusion has created a uniquely Minnesotan art culture that may be hard to find anywhere else in the entire world.
Minnesotas rich arts scene continues to embrace multicultural identities in many ways. Through the unique collaborations of artists sharing traditional knowledge a new form is born creating a new path of artistic expression. Minnesotas Art scene encompasses the modern, the avant garde as well as the traditional. With a robust energy, the art of Minnesota has left a landmark in American history.
Reference:https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/09/17/culture-as-cure https://twin-cities.umn.edu/news-events/community-university-health-care-center-receives-national-award-only-center-its-kind https://mspmag.com/home-and-design/leslie-barlow/ https://www.spmcf.org/blog/art-in-this-moment-indigenous-roots
Over 700 years old with a unique sound that highlights Indian music, the sitar has become Indias most popular musical instrument. There is a lot of debate over the origins of the sitar, however scholars believe that it may have originated from an ancient Persian instrument called setar. The sitar is popular in many forms of Indian music, from classics to folk songs and new age contemporary music. The instrument has been used in movies, commercials, in bands and has been explored even in the more avant garde world.
Here you can listen to sitar in Norah Jones song named Easy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jguri1qOCY0
Here is as picture of a 19th century sitar:
A sitar can have 18 to as many as 21 strings, and several of those strings stretch over raised curved frets. The remaining strings are left to resonate with the strings that are being played. The sounds from these strings are used to set the mood for a raga. The frets are moveable and are used to fine tune the instrument. The wood that’s used to construct the sitar is typically teak, and the sound chamber is made from calabash gourd. The bridges are made of deer horn, ebony and sometimes camel bone, synthetic materials are also used.
Ravi Shankar and tabla player Alla Rakha brought the sounds of India to the west in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s. This introduction was the base for many more experimental musical collaborations with sitar and western instrumentation. The sitar was used in music with the legendary Beatles, and also the Rolling Stones featured sitar in their music. During this time elegant Indian sitar became very popular leading Ravi Shankar to name the trend “the great sitar explosion”. Now today, across the globe, many people are familiar with the beautiful serene sound of the sitar, even if they have never seen it in person.
Race in America is a complex discussion that has many facets. We can not ignore POC history, we can not push aside the sad and very real issues we are faced with in the USA. Today we are here, we are present, and our goal is to dismantle white supremacy and build a path for all cultures and identities now, and in the future.
- White supremacist disapprove multiculturalism
- White supremacists only support ” white ” identity
- White supremacists sometimes use violence and fear to achieve their goals
When we are faced with the pain, trauma, violence, and hate of white America it is important that we BIPOC do not give rise to hate within our own hearts, or we become no different than them. It is important that we cultivate our hearts with love, peace, and non-violence in the quest of racial equity. For most of us BIPOC it is frightening to even think of the tragic history of America, and yet alone live today in the aftermath. So the question arises, “how do we end racism in America?”. First of all, you are NOT the problem, it is not your issue, the problem is within the engrained racism in our society and roots of white nationalism. To end racism we must educate, make our voices heard, and promote peace and equity in our new American culture. It may be difficult for some white nationalists to accept culture, this is not the problem of our BIPOC communities, and we should not internalize it, or it then becomes transformed into internalized racism. We can only continue sharing our cultures, freely expressing our identities and living as genuinely true to ourselves as we possibly can. Radiate love and peace, and eventually a cold heart will become warm.
The end goal for our bicultural Asian American Pacific Islander AAPI and Black Indigenous People Of Color BIPOC communities is to promote the cultural message of acceptance, love, understand, and appreciation. Many of us come from different cultures and in many ways socially as well, but this does not mean that we disassociate with our neighbors. Many of us have cultural ties to countries that are incredibly diverse and have long histories of peaceful cultural interactions and exchange. Our goal is to appreciate and to embrace the differences, so we can create a better future together.
Sounding as if it were weeping from the depths of an eternal dream, or sounding like wind through cedar trees in winter, a maiden is longing for her love, the Japanese fiddle known as kokyu (胡弓) brings a certain emotion to traditional and modern pieces of Japanese music. You may have heard the kokyu and wondered what it was, or have seen pictures of it and wondered what it sounded like. The kokyu is actually quite a rare instrument, and one that is also not too commonly used in Japanese music. Before we talk more about this amazing traditional Japanese instrument lets first have a listen at its unique sound.
Here is a video of a kokyu performer skillfully playing the instrument.
The history of the kokyu began earlier in China from an instrument called the huqin(胡琴). The huqin closely resembles the kokyu in playing method and techniques, however in appearance it is very much Japanese. The kokyu has 3 strings that stretch over the sound body, the finger board, and to the tuning pegs which are used to tighten the strings into place and tune the instrument. Unlike the kokyu’s cousin, the huqin from China, the kokyu uses 3 silk strings instead of just 2. The sound is very refined, very much capturing the sound and essence of Zen. The kokyu is usually played as a solo instrument, however it has been traditionally played with other instruments in duet form, or in ensemble form. Newer styles have been created highlighting the voice of the kokyu and showing the many countless possibilities of the instrument in tone color. Below is a video of the Chinese huqin or the kokyu’s relative, have a listen.
In present times, the kokyu is gaining popularity amongst music enthusiasts, its sound is melancholic and invokes profound emotions to the listener. Although the Kokyu is gaining popularity it is still very much a rare instrument and virtually unknown to most of the world. By its use in modern works it has been given another path to grow and inspire musicians for many years to come.
The timeless beauty of traditional Korean dress is taking the modern world by surprise! With its elegant straight and curved lines, meticulously crafted over many centuries, we cant help but be amazed by this stunning visual symphony of a uniquely Korean traditional style.
The Hanbok originated in Korea around 57 BC to 668 AD, and can also be found in the surviving arts of the Goguryeo tombs. The basic design of the Hanbok also originated during that period. The ancient Hanbok included a set of clothing that consisted of a Jeogori (top), Baji (pants), Chima (skirt), Po (coat), Jokki (vest), Durumagi (Winter coat) and the Magoja (overcoat), with the basic structure of Hanbok pretty much remaining unchanged today. In the past, royalty and nobility wore the Hanbok, and commoners wore white or off-white colors of clothing called Minbok which means (clothing of commoners). In present times, modern day Koreans wear Hanbok for special occasions such as weddings, festivals, ceremonies, and celebrations. The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism established “Hanbok” day encouraging Koreans to wear the traditional dress.
The modern Hanbok is a term for the fusion of traditional Korean styles and Modern western styles. Modern Hanbok have become a popular fashion statement for celebrities, models and the everyday fashion enthusiasts alike. With this new fusion of tradition and the contemporary, all people regardless of class may enjoy the ancient traditional beauty of the noble Hanbok. Traditionally the patterns and designs on Hanbok consisted of natural scenes, such as flowers, phoenixes and dragons. Today, the Hanbok is going bold with western patterns adding a new style to the centuries old attire.
Photo Credit: Sportsdonga
Modern Hanbok offer a highly stylistic fashion choice for any lover of the fabric. With bold colors, straight lines and simplicity, it can be worn with a combination of modern clothes or simply just modern Hanbok on its own! Its up to the fashion, the feel and the flow, but either way, the wearer will certainly catch the attention of the room at any party. Modern Hanbok should still be worn respectfully and mindfully, just as when one would wear traditional Hanbok. You are not simply putting on a T-shirt and jeans, you are wearing a tradition that goes back thousands of years. So, when wearing traditional Hanbok or its modern cousin, always be certain to be respectful so that way you are honoring the legacy and tradition of a highly refined and ancient Korean art.
Who would have ever thought that tofu could actually have quite the major health benefits?! Well be prepared to be amazed, because TOFU is stealing the show!
Tofu or Dou Fu – 豆腐, it has a long history which began in China around 2000 years ago. It’s said that during that time a prince named Liu An of Anhui was the inventor of this humble and nutritious food. Tofu became a much loved and popular food in China and eventually took root in neighboring countries like Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. Tofu is a very versatile soy based food that offers so many health benefits, and this is why it has become popular now in the west. Tofu has an excellent source of protein and it contains all of the amino acids that our bodies need to function. Adding tofu into your daily diet supports muscle growth, which makes it the perfect choice of protein for Vegans and vegetarians or those who just simply dont want meat. This ingredient is also rich in many minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. Calcium is important for bone and tooth health, and iron support oxygen in the blood and energy.
A study funded by the NHLB or the National Heart Lung and Blood institute found that a diet rich in soy and tofu products lowered the risk of developing heart disease. Data was researched on over 200,000 men and women participating in NIH-funded studies (Health professionals follow up study, Nurses Health Study, and the Nurses Health Study II). The researchers studies have shown that for those who ate soy product and had the highest intake of isoflavone, a compound found in tofu, had the lowest risk of developing heart disease. Researchers have said that including soy in ones diet would help in preventing heart disease. So, there is no doubt that tofu can improve ones health and lead to a healthy heart!
May is AAPI Heritage month, and a time for AAPI and BIPOC communities to come together, joining forces as one. This month, we should celebrate the many historical contributions of our Asian American and Pacific Islander brothers and sister. For AAPI month I would like to share a few poems from AAPI poets.
Dorothy Chan’s Chinese identity is a great part of her poetry. Dorothy is an editor for Hobart, and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eu Claire. Her poems speak of culture, interracial romance, identity and the exploration of how food can serve as a bridge between multigenerational family relationships. Dorothy Chan also founded the journal Honey Literary to publish works by women of color, looking deeper into the intersection between gender and ethnicity.
So Chinese Girl~ Dorothy Chan
Anyone who makes tasty food has to be a good person,
because think of all the love that goes into cooking:
salt and pepper, sprinkle a little extra cheese, and pop open a bottle
of Syrah, or if we’re eating at my parents’ in Las Vegas,
we’re drinking Tsingtao beer, my father’s favorite, and he adds more
bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms and baby corn,
and fun fact: When I was a baby, I’d eat only corn and carrot-flavored
mush, and now, my dad adds more to the Buddha’s Delight,
a vegetarian dish from China, and I think about my aunt
in Hong Kong, who, once a year, buys fish from restaurants,
only to release them back into the sea—eat tofu,
save a life—but back to the dinner scene in Vegas,
my mom is making her Cantonese lobster, extra garlic and ginger,
and I grew up licking lobster shells for their sauce,
I grew up waking up during summer vacations
to my mother wearing a headband, warding off the grease
from cooking crabs and shrimps, heads intact, and there’s something, just something
about my parents’ cooking that makes me feel
a little more like a Chinese girl, because I don’t live in Hong Kong,
and unlike my cousins, my daily stop isn’t Bowring Street Station,
where I could pick up fresh mango cake before it’s sold out,
or what about chocolate mousse cake in the shape of a bunny
or mini–dome cakes shaped like cows and pigs
or cakes shaped like watermelons and shikwasa and citrus mikans,
and who wouldn’t want custard egg tarts or hot dogs
wrapped in sweet bread or sesame balls, washing it all down
with cream soda, and I feel like that little Chinese girl
in Kowloon again, getting picked up by my grandpa
after preschool, ready to go junk shopping, and I’d come home
with shrimp crackers and a toy turtle aquarium and a snowman
painting and a dozen roses, and no, I don’t even like flowers anymore,
but there’s something, just something about thrifting
with my grandpa now at age twenty-eight that makes me feel
so Chinese Girl, the way he bargains in the stalls,
asking for the best, “How much for that Murakami-era Louis Vuitton belt?”
or “What about this vintage Armani?”
and it’s like that look he gives me at dim sum, after the sampler
of shumai and har gow and chicken feet and char siu bao comes,
and he tells me to eat everything, watches me chow down on
Chinese ravioli, and that face of his freezes in the moment:
“Eat more, eat more, eat more. Are you happy?”
And oh, Grandpa, I’m so happy I could eat forever.
Marilyn Chin was born in Hong Kong and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of five poetry collections, and currently serves as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
How I Got That Name~ Marilyn Chin
an essay on assimilation
I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin
Oh, how I love the resoluteness
of that first person singular
followed by that stalwart indicative
of “be,” without the uncertain i-n-g
of “becoming.” Of course,
the name had been changed
somewhere between Angel Island and the sea,
when my father the paperson
in the late 1950s
obsessed with a bombshell blond
transliterated “Mei Ling” to “Marilyn.”
And nobody dared question
his initial impulse—for we all know
lust drove men to greatness,
not goodness, not decency.
And there I was, a wayward pink baby,
named after some tragic white woman
swollen with gin and Nembutal.
My mother couldn’t pronounce the “r.”
She dubbed me “Numba one female offshoot”
for brevity: henceforth, she will live and die
in sublime ignorance, flanked
by loving children and the “kitchen deity.”
While my father dithers,
a tomcat in Hong Kong trash—
a gambler, a petty thug,
who bought a chain of chopsuey joints
in Piss River, Oregon,
with bootlegged Gucci cash.
Nobody dared question his integrity given
his nice, devout daughters
and his bright, industrious sons
as if filial piety were the standard
by which all earthly men are measured.
Oh, how trustworthy our daughters,
how thrifty our sons!
How we’ve managed to fool the experts
in education, statistic and demography—
We’re not very creative but not adverse to rote-learning.
Indeed, they can use us.
But the “Model Minority” is a tease.
We know you are watching now,
so we refuse to give you any!
Oh, bamboo shoots, bamboo shoots!
The further west we go, we’ll hit east;
the deeper down we dig, we’ll find China.
History has turned its stomach
on a black polluted beach—
where life doesn’t hinge
on that red, red wheelbarrow,
but whether or not our new lover
in the final episode of “Santa Barbara”
will lean over a scented candle
and call us a “bitch.”
Oh God, where have we gone wrong?
We have no inner resources!
Then, one redolent spring morning
the Great Patriarch Chin
peered down from his kiosk in heaven
and saw that his descendants were ugly.
One had a squarish head and a nose without a bridge
Another’s profile—long and knobbed as a gourd.
A third, the sad, brutish one
may never, never marry.
And I, his least favorite—
“not quite boiled, not quite cooked,”
a plump pomfret simmering in my juices—
too listless to fight for my people’s destiny.
“To kill without resistance is not slaughter”
says the proverb. So, I wait for imminent death.
The fact that this death is also metaphorical
is testament to my lethargy.
So here lies Marilyn Mei Ling Chin,
married once, twice to so-and-so, a Lee and a Wong,
granddaughter of Jack “the patriarch”
and the brooding Suilin Fong,
daughter of the virtuous Yuet Kuen Wong
and G.G. Chin the infamous,
sister of a dozen, cousin of a million,
survived by everybody and forgotten by all.
She was neither black nor white,
neither cherished nor vanquished,
just another squatter in her own bamboo grove
minding her poetry—
when one day heaven was unmerciful,
and a chasm opened where she stood.
Like the jowls of a mighty white whale,
or the jaws of a metaphysical Godzilla,
it swallowed her whole.
She did not flinch nor writhe,
nor fret about the afterlife,
but stayed! Solid as wood, happily
a little gnawed, tattered, mesmerized
by all that was lavished upon her
and all that was taken away!
Jenny Xie is the author of Eye Level, and winner of the 2017 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets and a finalist for the National Book Award; and Nowhere to Arrive, recipient of the 2016 Drinking Gourd Prize. Jenny’s poems appear in Poetry magazine, the American Poetry Review, the New Republic, Tin House, and also found elsewhere. She earned her degrees from Princeton University and New York University’s Creative Writing Program, and has received fellowships and support from Kundiman, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Poets & Writers. She is now a teacher at New York University.
Rootless~ Jenny Xie
Between Hanoi and Sapa there are clean slabs of rice fields
and no two brick houses in a row.
I mean, no three—
See, counting’s hard in half-sleep, and the rain pulls a sheet
over the sugar palms and their untroubled leaves.
Hours ago, I crossed a motorbike with a hog strapped to its seat,
the size of a date pit from a distance.
Can this solitude be rootless, unhooked from the ground?
No matter. The mind resides both inside and out.
It can think itself and think itself into existence.
I sponge off the eyes, no worse for wear.
My frugal mouth spends the only foreign words it owns.
At present, on this sleeper train, there’s nowhere to arrive.
Me? I’m just here in my traveler’s clothes, trying on each passing town for size.
Poetry has the power to bring healing to our world, it can keep alive family stories, and the traditions of culture. Poetry is an art form that anyone can read or listen to, to feel, to decorate their minds and their lives. It is a way of expressing the inner self to the outer world, it is a way to bring light into dark places and also to promote freedom, equality and change, which is very much needed in our world today.