This book is a collection of common Chinese herbs that families can find in Asian supermarkets across the globe. Many times these herbs are also put in our dishes without us knowing that they have more than the purpose of flavoring our food.
Ever since, I had recognizable memory of eating and taste, I know I have encountered several meals with interesting taste under my grandma and mother’s cooking at certain instances. Instances such that I am sick, I feel weak, or purely seasonal changes. I know the dishes prepared for these instances were not the usual typical taste of soy sauce and sugar or household flavoring my mom put into the chicken soups or broth. It is these intensifying strong hit of hypnotic pleasure that strikes my taste buds and develop my interest in knowing more about these tastes. Every time I consume food with these herbs, I feel better from the uncomfortable states I was in. However, over the years, I just took this cure for granted.
Through some impulse to rediscover my culture and origin in a series of art I made, I have also decided to self-research on these herbs and make a book documenting these common herbs. The herbs are ordered alphabetically and documented through research and personal experience. Each herb is classified by their Origin, Smell/ Taste, Property, Actions, and Indications telling the audiences what it taste like and its uses.
It is believed by the Oriental Medicinal Cure that human bodies are composed of chi and meridians. The twelve meridians control human life, yet they are the place where disease can live. If disease starts in the meridians, the herbs can aid the meridians to treat the root cause of disease. Chi, blood and body fluid, the essential substances for life activities, flow constantly inside the body and all originate from the viscera. They are produced by chi-transforming activities of the viscera and infused into the viscera to nourish the organs and tissues of the body. These will affect the yin and yang of human body. Keeping a healthy balance of yin and yang is the key component to having a healthy body.
Hopefully, the readers of this book can use the information of smell/taste and the herb’s purposes to create interesting dishes to that will not only surprise the taste buds of their family, but also help them maintain a healthy body.
This book is made through a very painstaking process using herbs, researches, drawings, notes, and drafts-after-drafts. First, I made a lot of researches reading old Chinese books on Chinese Medicine to understand the subjects in this medicinal practice. Then, I picked out the 20 common herbs I was able to obtain in local Asian grocery store.
The idea of picking 20 common herbs is so that people can obtain and consume these herbs on a daily basis. After deciding on the 20 herbs I would like to use, I researched the herbs for its Chinese medicinal use and the origins of each herb. Interestingly, many of these herbs, I could not obtain a full image of the plant from leaf to root that were already analyzed.
In fact, most of the drawing required me to look up actual plants and render possible full image of the plants using my imagination and creativity. Some plants don’t even have an existing image of the rhizome part. As a result to resolve this challenge, I researched up all plants related to that single plant with the same Latin root. Using compare and contrast method, I resolute the best possible root that might cohere with the plant. Through this process I also learned a lot about the plants, the anatomies, the origin, the plants and their relatives.
The proposal of creating this project is met. However, it was met through a process more rigorous than what I had planned in my proposal. On average each page required at least 6 hours of labor put into it.
Each page is made through the process of research, 1st draft (composition/ info), 2nd draft (precise measurement), final draft (tracing), mounting actual herbs, and wood framing of each page front and back. The wood frames are all measured and mitered by hand using an exacto knife. The frames were used to help make each page look like its own art piece. In addition, the framing acts as a source of protection.
Due to how the herbs were glued in, some herbs stick out way higher than the pages level. With the weight when the book is closed, it can either break the herbs or the herbs will penetrate the previous page. After the 20 pages were made, I created different small prototypes for binding the book. The problem with binding the pages was the pages are very thick and the wood frames are not flexible like paper. In the end, I came up with my own type of binding by studying the engineering of different types of binding. The ending result will allow the binding of the thick pages to also lay flat, giving full view of each individual drawing.
In all, the project turned out successfully. However, if more time were allowed, I would like to also color in the drawn herbs using color pencil. Furthermore, I would like to draw in the blank pages on the back of each page. After discussing with my guidance professor, there are a few possible ideas. One is drawing out the recipes I used while researching the herbs and getting personal experience on each herb. Two is drawing out the symptoms of diseases that can be cured by each herb. Even though the book looked finished, but I hope to go back to this project and work on it even more.