Cooling China’s Body: Herbal Cooling Tea and Cultural Regionalism in Post-SARS China

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Department of English, NTNU


South China, and the role it plays in the popularization of Chinese herbal cooling tea as an example to lay bare how a traditional medicine-focused nationalist project is enacted and enabled at the local level. The first part of the essay explains how the resulting discursive practice of traditional medicine reinforces the link between nationalized Chinese culture and health security agenda, shaping an ethic of communal biosecurity. The second part foregrounds the importance of scale, especially that of the provincial and the regional, in scrutinizing the ways through which the nation-wide Chinese medicine policies come into force in contemporary China. Thirdly, by looking at the incident of the joint application for promoting cooling tea as a state-authorized intangible cultural heritage among Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau, we emphasize the leading role of the Guangdong provincial government in promoting Chinese medicine in the region. The final section is devoted to unraveling the disputes involved in such a regionalist scheme.