Zhouyong Spirit Apparel

Esoteric streetwear for active and ambitious lifestyles.

Behind the Artistry

This apparel was established in Toronto (Ontario) in 2020 as a t-shirt design; a simple outlet for creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Quickly, this evolved into a socially conscious initiative that promoted mental health, physical fitness, and strength through the sport of Olympic weightlifting. The Zhouyong Weightlifiting project raised $1000 for mental health non-profits, and an additional $500 for Helicopters Without Borders in relief of the devastation caused in my home province of British Columbia during the 2021 Pacific Northwest Floods.

The parallel driving force behind this project was to create a piece of art that honours my ancestors at a time when anti-Asian sentiment, like the need for mental health support, was at its zenith. Racism is real for us. It’s lifelong, whether full Asian or mixed-Asian heritage. Sometimes the racism is overt.  Sometimes, it’s subtle.  Sometimes it’s violent. Very often, it’s gift wrapped as a temporary and backhanded compliment.

The feeling of this intrinsic hatred towards us is hard to describe, other than it is deep; in the depths of the cerebellum, primal and animalistic. It’s made apparent very early on in life that some people don’t like us because of the strength of our minds and bodies, the observations beheld by our beautiful eyes, the youthful vibrance of our skin, the melodic sounds of our ancient language, the Pavlovian aroma of our delicious cuisine, the charisma and confidence that we have in our abilities, the unbreakable bonds we have with our families, or the unlimited potential of our intellect and imagination.

The emotion that seems consistent across every display of racism is that I am always left incredulous and humoured in the irony; the embarrassing frequency in which racism occurs in the communities of a country that attempts to pride itself in its diversity. Distilling whether we are being treated according to our appearance, actions, or ambition is both puzzling and exhausting. Often a futile exercise, as the compass of Occam’s razor is seldom repelled by xenophobia in cases like this. Nevertheless, an instinctual decision of self-preservation must be made:

Do I, extend my hands to give, share, and receive? Recoil in fear and freeze? Raise them to propel a run, or to fight for reprieve? Best I coordinate them to draw a bow, arrow, and blade; a simple arsenal imbued with courage and enchanted with jade. Racism hides in the shadows, equal parts cowardly and dangerous in its most common and sinister forms:

Insidious. Institutionalized. Intentional.

However, a different breed of demon emerges from our shadows. The shadows in which we were cast that provide comfort, not fear. We are not the same genus or species, and we are not afraid of what lurks in the darkness. We are not the same ignorant souls you incentivized and exploited, the slaves who brilliantly engineered your infrastructure, the labourers who manufactured your goods, nor the abacus with which you calculate your profit.

We different, fam. We come from dragons.

We come from the streets. And the plains, oceans, rivers, forests, jungles, deserts, valleys, and mountains. We carve our own paths. We are nomads, agile and adaptive. Hakka, the guest people. Allied and alliterative. We are the academics, athletes, artisans, artists, alchemists, activists, and anarchists who are redirecting the pendular momentum towards balance and ascension with benevolence. Anchored and armoured, swords and shields, bows and arrows.

To our friends and allies, thank you for the love and acceptance, despite our differences.

Yours in strength and spirit,

What does it mean?

  • Zhou (周) is a family name that comes from the longest ruling dynasty in ancient Chinese history.
  • Yong (勇) is a given name that translates to courage, or bravery.
  • Jingshen (精神) means consciousness, essence, or spirit.
  • Tiānmìng (天命) means “Heaven’s Mandate,” which is a sociopolitical ideology from the Zhou dynasty.
  • The red seal is a reminder to lead selflessly with benevolent values and moral character.

 Through this passion project, I strive to explore and celebrate culture by designing, creating, and curating apparel as a means of expression of body, mind, and spirit.

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