What is Bicultural Healthy Living?


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 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/

The Beautiful Art of Korean Gayageum In Modern Times


Photo Courtesy of Gettyimagesbank

In ancient times the soft, earthy, delicate silken sound of the gayageum (Korean Zither) echoed across Korea. It accompanied singers, dancers and drummers in their artistic collaborations, and now today this ancient Korean instrument has found its way west. The Gayageum has a long history in Korea, once was an instrument played for royal palace celebrations. Scholars believe the gayageum was inspired by the guzheng, which is an ancient instrument from China. In the 19th century the sanjo gayageum was born, Sanjo means “scattered melodies”, which has moments of improvisation and fast tempo. During this time new works were written for the sanjo gayageum which has become the most standard version of the instrument today. The sweet honey like sound of the instrument comes from its silk strings, and the traditional paulownia wood body of the instrument.

Over the course of its long history, construction and the composition of many folk pieces, the gayageum has made its way into the western music world. Dazzling audiences with its rich sound, the gayageum has become a famed instrument across the world. One remarkable aspect of the Korean gayageum is its ability to fuse harmoniously with different instruments, creating an atmosphere of old and new. Contemporary Gayageum performers have gone viral on social media platforms for their new, exciting and innovative works on the gayageum. One of these creative masters is Koreas own, Luna Lee. Check out the groundbreaking work Luna is creating in this video.

With the global appreciation of gayageum music, new collaborations are taking place. These collaborations are paving grounds for future artists and creatives, and also building a cultural base for world music enthusiasts to enjoy today. Many people across the world have taken up learning the gaygeum, and in doing so, also learning new ways of expression for themselves. This global cultural exchange fosters a deep profound appreciation for gayageum, and its relevance in todays contemporary world. The art of gayageum represents a rich and ancient lineage, a balance of harmony and innovation, as well as the timelessness and elegance of Korean tradition.

The Chinese Art of Gourd Carving

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.

Reference: http://en.chinaculture.org/library/2008-01/22/content_46365.htm#:~:text=Gourd%20art%20involves%20creating%20works,Dynasty%20(618%2D907).

Multicultural Cooking

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.


Shamisen In Modern Music

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 Multicultural Art of Minnesota

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

Sitar In Modern Music

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.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitar



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.

References: https://www.britannica.com/topic/white-supremacy

The Japanese Fiddle


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.

The Chinese Huqin being played by a professional quartet

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.


Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokyū