This is “Wellness Stans,” a personal essay series from people who’ve been uniquely inspired by a specific practice or the lifestyle of a cultural figure. Here, we celebrate the ways inspiration can inform and transform someone’s wellness journey.
I hit “play” on a video that’s queued up and see sweeping mists floating through lush mountains. Fond memories of my years living in Southeast Alaska and Vermont briefly wash over me, though these particular views on the screen are from somewhere in rural China.
In one scene, I watch a blood-red moon arc across the sky as garden lanterns flicker to life. They illuminate a young woman, Li Ziqi, as she prepares an outdoor table for a grand meal she’ll share with her grandmother.
Later, in a different video, Ziqi wears an ethereal dress (which she probably made herself). She glides between trees in pale-pink bloom in a valley between the snow-flecked peaks.
After collecting blossoms in a basket (that she probably wove by hand) she effortlessly sets to making numerous skin care items and snacks from the petals. All the while, I’m transfixed by this creative enchanter, this kindred spirit on the other side of the world.
It hasn’t been long since I first discovered Li Ziqi on YouTube, but it only took 2 minutes of watching one of her videos to know that I stan her. She has more than 11 million subscribers, which proves I’m hardly alone in obsessing over her vibe and creativity. I’ve lost count of how many of her videos I’ve seen, but I love getting that ASMR tingle up my spine each time.
Ziqi is described as “an Oriental Lifestyle Foodie” on her online shop page, yet she’s so much more than that. In any given video, we observe as she grinds her own spices, debones a duck, distills her own hydrosols, hand-dyes and sews fabric, chops bamboo, builds an outdoor oven, or sifts seeds for planting.
She doesn’t talk to the camera in her videos, though you’ll hear her make an occasional comment to her grandmother or share in a heartwarming laugh. The few words that are displayed on screen to describe her creations are in Chinese — of which I know zero. And only a few of the videos seem to come with closed captions. But I don’t mind. I’ve fallen in love with the experience Ziqi creates.
The pastoral scenery, positive and uplifting energy, instrumental music, and all-around lush videography captivate me without needing a single word.
I don’t watch Ziqi’s content with plans of re-creating the dishes she makes (I’m allergic to eggs and soy), but I find myself being swept into a zone comparable to a guided meditation. She opens a window to a world that’s at once mystifying in its unfamiliar (to me) Chinese traditions and a comforting diversion from the stressful day-to-day. On days that my anxiety levels are particularly high and all I want to do is curl up with my cat, Ziqi’s videos are a soothing balm.
Her garden is always a wonder, and she seems to know how to grow and use everything in multiple ways.
As someone who loves living close to nature, DIY projects, and serene landscapes, I enter this Ziqi dreamscape with curiosity, wonder, and awe. From my time living on a farm and dabbling in content creation, I know how much work goes into harvesting and making things from scratch. But she makes doing it all — and documenting it all — look so easy.
All the vessels she uses to create are equally as captivating to me as what she creates. I noticed there aren’t any plastic mixing bowls or even a typical kitchen stove (at least that we see).
There isn’t anything that looks like it’s from “the world out there” or from modern city life. Her tools are worn yet beautiful, most of them are made from wood (her main cutting board is a large, smoothed tree slice), and she does most of her cooking on freestanding tea stoves or the giant traditional wok.
In years past, I’ve been known to forage for berries and make a dozen jars of jam, haul rocks into the woods to make a faerie path, or dye silk from wild roses.
I often take walks through the forest just to examine the moss and see what mushrooms have appeared after the rain. I collect acorn and flower specimens in a bag I knitted (though, let’s be real, I bought the yarn from a craft store — Ziqi probably would have sheared the sheep and spun it herself).
Ziqi makes me think differently about the tools I use in life. I’m challenged to surround myself with beauty, meaning, and quality — not just the cheap and convenient. And though I already grow a few of my own veggies, I’ve been dreaming more about nurturing the garden I hope to have one day.
Ziqi ignites passion in me for the things I already love but honestly don’t always have the energy to pursue (especially lately). She conveys the joy of living in a way that feels purposeful — from the food I eat to the projects I create to the life I want to make for myself — with beauty and intention.
It’s through this spring of creative wellness and inspiration that I stan Li Ziqi.
Naomi is the books editor and a copy editor at Greatist. She loves focusing on all things books, beauty, wellness, and mental health. She’s also a YA fantasy writer and bookstagrammer. You can find her (and her cat) @avioletlife.