I have decided to learn about end-of-life rituals because it fascinated me the most out of all the rest of the topics. It may be an odd topic, but that's what makes it different. This project required me to have profound and spiritual thinking which were absolutely necessary: this could be a very sensitive topic to most. I find it interesting how every single religion has an independent opinion about death and afterlife. Some cultures believe it's another beginning to transition into a new life, and some don't. I would like to know what the Bais believe. This is important because it will help me learn about a new culture, and even a new religion.
The people that led me to my sources are my chaperones: Mr. T, Ms. Mai, Fay, and Xiaotang. Our security guard Mr. Zhao also led me to many of my sources. I chose most of these sources because they all related to my topic. The locals that assisted me with my Inquiry Project are: Mr. Dong, Mr. Yang, Ms. Zhang, Ms. Wang, and Mr. Yang. Thank you all so much for your help!
They all owned shops that sold items connected to funerals. Some questions I have answered are: What do Bais wear for funerals? Where are the bodies buried? Do they believe in afterlife? Is it followed by a tradition? Who are invited to watch the funeral? In order to fully understand all there is to know about tombstones here in XiZhou, one must consider the materials that are used, and the process of making one. I plan on creating a miniature tomb stone that symbolies the Dynamite group as my final product.
Sharing My Learning:
To share and show my learning about my final product, I have created a video of myself explaining about my topic. This video can be found above the introduction.
What I took away from this experience is how to approach and communicate with locals and strangers. I've also learned that projects like this must develop over time, and it cannot develop in several days. A project like this is a long process that requires deep thinking, patience, responsibility, and so much more. I also took away lots of information about the people of XiZhou, and the way their daily life works.
I chose this topic because I thought it would be quite interesting to research about the topic. At first, I wanted to focus on coffins. A few days before I began my Phase 4, Xiao Tang introduced me to the tombstone carver. This really interested me because I have never thought of that aspect to approach my topic before. I was glad that Xiao Tang suggested this topic to me, since it did lead to my final product. I haven't changed my general topic, but I did slightly change my main focus.
The most difficult part of my research was trying to find experts and shop-owners. There definitely was a limit for my sources since not many people sell items related to my topic. But with the help of Mr. Zhao, I was able to generalize my research.
An "a-ha" moment I had was when I was interviewing the locals and they informed me that a funeral consisted of 3 days. This surprised me, because I was expecting the ritual to be a lot more simple and straightforward. But soon, I realized that the drawings on the caskets, the garments and attire and even the shoes represented something. I've also realized that all the elders over 60 years old have a different rule for attire (the color changes from black to red).
This project did help me a lot to find out about my topic, even though we did come here to research about the topic we were interested in. But I did gain more information than I thought I would before I got here.
When I was short of locals to interview, it required me to go around the village searching for people related to my topic. This allowed me not just to find the locals, but to explore the village and have a conversation with those people. To see the progress of making a casket, I started visiting Mr. Yang's casket making shop out of curiosity. After a few days, he started to recognize me everytime I came in to take a look. He also began to trust me, and gave me permission to try and carve wood.
This inquiry project really helped me learn about myself as well. I was proud of myself to be able to step outside my comfort zone (bubbe) and try something new, which was interacting with elders: something we do not do much back in the city of Shanghai. I've also realized that the life I live and the life these local people live are completely unalike. I am so fortunate to go to an international school, to be travelling all over the world, and to even be able to come to a village like XiZhou. The people of this village aren't as forunate as we are, but by the look of their faces and their generosity, they look just as happy as we are.
If I was to go back to the beginning when we started this project, I would go out of YZR and start interviewing right away. If I had done that earlier without being hesitant and afraid, I could've had loads of more information to look at, and to work with. The goal is to finish this project with a final product, but also to learn as much as you can about this place for the 28 days.
If I was to continue this research project, I could've also researched more specifically into the clothing that are worn for a funeral. I definitely think it's a new approach to the topic. I could've compared the male and female clothing.
Thank you Mr. T, for all the advice and support you gave me with my project, even before our departure to XiZhou.
Thank you Ms. Mai, for being very generous and helping me find and discover more sources.
Thank you Xiao Tang, for introducing me to many locals and giving me guidance.
Thank you Fay, for all the information you gave me about my topic, and helping me find locals.
Thank you Anneliese, for the accurate and clear translations of what the locals said.
Thank you Mr. Dong, for letting me make my final product and trusting me with all your materials.
Thank you to the rest of the locals who helped me come so far with my project.
Thank you to all the staffs at YZR, for keeping us safe and cooking us amazing food and snacks.
Thank you to the Linden Centre staff and the Linden family, for letting us stay here and for providing us with all of our necessities.
Thank you friends, for being supportive and positive about my progress and contacting me often.
Finally, thank you to my parents and family for allowing me to take part in this amazing 1-month adventure.