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Engaging Artists

Another World is Possible with Gong Fu Cha Practice

January 22, 2024
Mei Ling Yu

Header image: Gong Fu Cha tea set up on a black and tan criss crossed patterned placemat with a porcelain teapot, glass fairness pitcher, two black tea cups with 4 tan brown woven coasters underneath each tea ware component.

This month’s featured Engaging Artists Fellow is Mei Ling Yu, who writes about the significance of Gong Fu Cha practice and how it can guide us in building a new reality based on connection and collectivity.

Gong Fu Cha (in my own rewording) translates as, “skillful brewing of tea,” a traditional Chinese way of brewing tea rooted in the origins of Southeast China, Chaozhou (in Mandarin Chinese, also pronounced as Chiuchow in Cantonese). For me, Gong Fu Cha practice is a sacred, direct reconnection in remembering an ancestral, cultural practice when I am feeling the deep disconnection, need for healing and guidance — it continues to deeply support me with tethering back to my roots and existence here.

Gong Fu Cha practice is a direct reflection of the elements of the natural ways, and roots us to come back to our true essence — beyond all the identities we hold, yet simultaneously holding the web of our intersecting identities and relationships with each other’s humanness. Gong Fu Cha practice may serve as an invitation to let these identities “dissolve,” even for just a container of time in our day, week, or whenever we choose to and get to slow down with tea. These identities we may leave unturned throughout our day-to-day life, where we pick and choose (consciously or unconsciously) which “mask” we put on as we move through this dance we may call our human experience, our daily life.

When we enter the slowing down with Cha, we enter a portal of expansive possibilities to deepen-in connections, redefining time-space, intentionally shaping how we are to honor our time together. Healing Justice and Disability Justice is centered, activating healing practices with the energies of the elements, re-pacing ourselves in a way that feels well for our bodies. We invite folks to deeply feel and co-create a nourishing space to thread connections present in our time together, to come back to begin, again and again. In a world where we live within systems built to oppress, drain, disable, extract, burn us out — if not brutally, slowly — Gong Fu Cha is a form of Earth medicine for us. We invite the active practice of being truly in connection with each other, with real attention for mutual care, steeping ourselves in an alternative “time portal” beyond capitalistic timelines.

Gong Fu Cha practice illuminates a space to disrupt, creating alternate time-space, “time portals,” a way to play around with how time is a construct. Slowing down time, disrupting the concept of capitalistic performativity with doses of intentionality, and getting back to our own essence as much as possible. A Gong Fu Cha practice, specifically, prioritizing and creating space for those who are most impacted, marginalized, disabled, chronically ill, MAD, queer, trans, black, indigenous, people of the Global Majority who are disproportionately, intentionally, systematically oppressed. When we are the center of this work, it holds an entirely different meaning for healing. Our rest, our slowing down being put to active practice is the very thing that these colonial systems hate to see, witness, and they will do everything in their power to have us not be able to rest. We create space within a Gong Fu Cha practice to center our rest, for it is our survival, our preservation, our legacy, and our deservingness to live a life well lived, a good life, too. We are not meant to do any of this alone, so we do need each other to build another world possible, together.

At this time in history, we must call for an active practice of mutual, reciprocal, collective care as a responsibility for the Earth, indigenous peoples, stewards of the lands, and protectors of the water. We can no longer keep living, keep pushing, keep bypassing when we’ve lost so many of us, so many injustices, so many disabled. We must stop upholding, holding on to “comforts,” and learn to let go of what is already happening — the collapse of an entire colonial empire.

Another world is absolutely possible, and it is on the way as we continue fighting for a more liberated, just world. In addition, we must invite those who align with radical, liberatory justice work — especially white folks and those who are economically, financially, materially able — to engage deeply in active, consistent practice, and to get creative in doing the work of ongoing mutual aid to ensure that those who are struggling to survive — especially those most impacted, marginalized, QTBIPOC (queer, trans, black, indigenous and people of color) — are not turned away. Particularly, within the Gong Fu Cha “realm” (or rather, those who practice themselves and/or engage in Traditional Chinese tea practice in some way), we must do the work of redistributing funds and resources, learning, and building radical relationships with each other. Our world is already being shaken and we are “waking” up to the necessity, and possibility, of building another world.


Mei Ling Yu


Mei Ling (she/they/we) self-identifies as a cis-gender, queer Chinese-American and Gong Fu Cha Practitioner. Born, raised and based in New York City, on unceded Lenapehoking land. Mei Ling is deeply passionate about radical healing, spirituality, and well-being. A life-long devotee of Tea, Cha, the healing arts, somatic practices and experienced in practicing Gong Fu Cha, 6 years now. Mei Ling is a child of Toishanese immigrants, coming from an ancestry of village farmers and Chinese medicine people. Mei Ling aspires to study spiritual herbalism and farming to reconnect and deepen their practice with medicine of the East and West, weaving ancient and modern practices.


More Art’s year-long Engaging Artists Fellowship is designed to help emerging NYC artists and community organizers develop and sustain a socially engaged and public art practice. The Fellowship program curriculum includes mentorship, peer networking, access to programming opportunities in New York City, and workshops and artist talks tailored to the interests/needs of the cohort. The infrastructure and laboratory provided by More Art allow selected emerging and underrepresented artists to gain a deeper understanding of the history and vitality of public and socially engaged art and encourage artists to expand and develop social practice.

This article was commissioned by More Art and written by Mei Ling Yu. Images courtesy of the artist.

This article is also published on More Art’s Medium site.