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Tofu Company

This project is a VR piece that brings together immigration, alchemy, and culture migration. 


While strolling around Cambridge, I caught sight of Chang Shing Tofu, a traditional tofu factory owned by a Chinese immigrant family. It was located in two brick buildings with a small entrance bearing a faded Chinese character Fu(福)window sticker means good fortune and happiness. The buildings’ conventional color scheme and the quietness of the tofu company set a dramatic contrast with the many modern, high-tech pharmaceutical companies nearby. That disparity seemed to be telling me stories that had once connected them. I was somehow fascinated. Ideas ran wild in my mind and I was just in time to capture the following: 

  1. Alchemy / Chemistry 

My flow of thoughts: the chemical reactions taking place in those modern biotech labs can be traced back to alchemy, one of the earliest chemical reactions discovered by man. In the 16th century. Western scientists were looking for gold. Frustrated by their fruitless quest, they turned to more practical matters, such as creating medicine by alchemy. Evolved from it, chemistry today has been employed by pharmaceutical industries to discover new drugs that can extend life. The process of making tofu resembles alchemy. The discovery of tofu 2,000 years ago occurred when a Chinese prince was trying to extract pills for immortal life. He failed, but in the process, he accidentally created bean curd.

 2. Culture Migration / Human Migration

Chang Shing Tofu company was opened in 1988 by a Vietnamese-Chinese immigrant. Today the second and third generation is part of the Cambridge community and beyond. In terms of culture migration, tofu was not well known to Westerners before the mid-20th century. In terms of culture migration, tofu was not well known to Westerners before the mid-20th century. However, soy source was brought to Europe by Dutch East India company in the early 17th century as part of their exploration of the world. Benjamin Franklin was the first American to mention tofu in a 1770 letter to John Bartram. Franklin, who encountered it during a trip to London, included a few soybeans and referred to it as “cheese” from China. In 1829, Prof. Thomas Nuttall, in a letter to the editor of the New England Farmer, states that he grew the soybeans in the Botanic Garden, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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