We all know the symbol of the Yin Yang, but how many of us actually understand it? For the London-based Kat Chan, this was a prevalent question at hand. “I wanted to create a project that helps us understand the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) through modernised cultural touch points,” she tells It’s Nice That, and through her new project, Chuntian, she does exactly that. Whether it’s through food, photography, music or wine, she wanted to raise awareness of the multiplicity of concepts rooted in Chinese medicine.
Take the symbol of Yin and Yang for example. “Yin means the shady side of the mountain, whereas Yang is its sunny side. The two sides are dependent on each other, constantly moving from dark to light,” says Kat. “The philosophy of TCM leads heavily on the understanding that there is duality in everything.” It’s an idea that Kat is seeing crop up even more so now. As the current Covid-19 pandemic has swept the world, the rising xenophobia towards Asians caused Kat to start Chuntian; a guide to spring inspired by the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine.
“From London to New York, countless local Asian-owned businesses from restaurants to book shops have been forced to close as they bore the burden of collective fear, even before Covid-19 cases were widely announced in these cities,” Kat explains. Guanghwa Bookshop which opened in London’s Chinatown in 1971 for instance, has sadly had to close its doors for the foreseeable future. Currently on the site however, you can view and buy books from the store. “It suddenly seemed urgent to present a different viewpoint on Chinese culture and shine a positive light on the voices of the Asian diaspora.” Switching up the narrative, the website takes its readers on a poetic and practical introduction to the practice. One that, in short, believes that food is medicine and medicine is food. “I would love it if people found Chuntian a useful resource to see how we can access nourishment in many forms,” she adds.
Highlighting recipes, music, wine, and much much more, Chuntian shines a light on TCM’s modern interpretations, from reggae and ska made in Hong Kong, to the role of ancestral wines, and a series of instructions on how we can use acupressure to access beneficial points on our body from our very own homes, there is much to be discovered in this treasure trove of a site. Featuring the likes of Zoey Gong, Yeti Out, and an Amsterdam-based artist duo The Nature of the Points, the project is also escorted by the wonderful photographs of It’s Nice That regular, Samuel Bradley.
Some of the images were taken on his phone in the kitchen, whereas others were taken on a trip to Shangri La, a city in the Yunnan province (with Kat) at the end of 2018. “We were driving around on an electric scooter looking for somewhere to catch the very last rays of sunlight,” remembers Kat on one of her favourite images of a piece of ginger. “We had stopped to see how we could navigate our electric scooter up with pathless hills towards what looked like a luminous white temple in the distance,” and the photo was snapped up in that picturesque moment.
Over time, this image has become particularly significant to Kat. Purchased from a wet market, the photograph reminds her of her childhood in Asia. “I know that wet markets are so much more than what is currently being expounded in the news,” she says. “I wish people had the opportunity to experience the seasonality, the vivid colours and fresh flavours from the produce in abundance before jumping to conclusions.” It was during this childhood where Chinese medicine first became an interest to Kat. She recalls how from a young age, doctors would ask about her emotional state as well as the physical when checking up on her, and would give her bitter soups to drink when unwell. She finally concludes, “I love that you can take something that has been practiced for over 2000 years and still use it today, and creatively, I’m drawn to the same qualities, I’m drawn to things that feel strange at first, but then turn out to be familiar.”
GalleryKat Chan and Samuel Bradley: Chuntian
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.