Gan Ke Ping, Director of Taiwan-based Seedesign, says that the world is setting its sights on the huaren market. Huaren designers must first understand their own backgrounds and memories. Only then can they tell stories that belong to the entire huaren community and create designs that can touch people’s hearts.
For over a decade, Gan has devoted herself to the research of a diet that adheres to the cycle of the 24 Solar Terms. Between 2012 and 2015, Gan and her team published eight books that discuss this subject. Among these eight volumes, Taiwan Foods: Vegetable was honored with the 38th Golden Tripod Award for Publications, and Cook for Love received the 2014 Golden Pin Best Design trophy; both accomplishments are testimony to her design abilities.
What chance opportunities brought her in touch with this subject and pushed her into over a decade of research into the Chinese Solar Terms? Gang, who has loved drawing and writing since she was a child, said that she was inspired by two clients, Banmu Tang Environmental Integration Group and Natural Way Children’s School. The former group, experienced in architecture and interior as well as landscape design, has dedicated themselves to fulfilling the design philosophy of “architecture that conforms to Solar Terms.” The latter, an experimental school, teaches students the Six Arts that form the basis of ancient Chinese education–rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics–while also teaching them to lead lifestyles that adhere to the Solar Terms. Both institutions greatly emphasize the importance of the 24 Solar Terms and huaren culture. Gan dove into the research of the Solar Terms in order to design for her clients; little did she know it would become her passion. Apart from publishing books, Gan also founded the Solar Term Food Lab and Solar Term Kitchen in Taichung, Taiwan. She created a ‘Home Feast’ menu that was highly praised by world-renowned Taiwanese chef, Andre Chiang, who was deeply touched by Gan’s ideals.
As Gan notes, while there are only four seasons in the West, huaren in the East have 24 Solar Terms or seasons. These terms come from the accumulated wisdom of huaren ancestors, and the natural order of land and nature. “Solar Terms represent the time axis while local conditions form the space axis. We believe that eating the right foods during different periods throughout the year is most beneficial to our health,” she explains. Through visiting the sources of the produce and having deep conversations with the farmers, Gan realized that each food has its own story, much like huaren throughout the world have their own background. Gan believes that designers must first understand their background and memories, and then the background of the subject of their design. It is only by doing so that a designer will be able to tell the huaren story through design and provide people with the right tools to better understand huaren culture.
Gan also urges young designers to create traditional Chinese character design. “Traditional Chinese characters are beautiful in both form and meaning. Yet, only people in Taiwan and Hong Kong continue to use the traditional fonts, which makes them even more precious,” she states. When asked how she would describe the aesthetics of huaren design, Gan responded that because she is deeply influenced by Confucianism, her aesthetic sense is naturally “gentle and genuine, being harmonious with others without blindly following trends.”
In conclusion, Gan states that design is a powerful tool that will allow the unique and precious elements of huaren culture to be passed on both to the next generation and shared with the world. Her eight books–currently in the process of being published in Japan, and with potential to enter the European market–are the best examples of such possibilities. For Gan, design has long surpassed being an interest, it is now a medium for, and addresses her mission of, passing on culture.
About Gan Ke Ping
Gan Ke Ping, Design Director of Seedesign, appreciates writing, drawing, and the power of handmade creation. Her works have garnered numerous awards, including the iF Packaging Design Award, the Golden Tripod Award, the Design for Asia Award, and the Golden Pin Design Award. In 2012, inspired by a huaren lifestyle that adheres to the cycle of the 24 Solar Terms, Gan founded the Solar Term Food Lab.
Since then, she and her team have published eight books themed around a diet that conforms to the Solar Terms: One in Twenty-four Picky; Your Land; Our Vegetables; Cook for Love; Taiwan Foods: Vegetable; 100% Fermented in Taiwan; Rice Balls Club; and Pickled in Taiwan. In 2012, Gan planned the Produce of 24 Solar Terms Design Show for the Taipei Design City Exhibition, and in 2015, she designed the imagery for the One Pavilion To Go Taiwan Project for the 2015 Expo Milano.