I chose the topic of Bai minority architecture because I was facinated by architecture in Europe when I went there during the summer of 2010. Seeing the structures there led me wanting to learn about the architecture here in XIzhou. When I also went onto some websites before coming to Xizhou, it mentioned alot about the architecture here so that is also what got me interested. The people that I got the most information for my topic was Hu Lijun and Mr. Yang (the architect). I got these contacts from Mr.T and Xiao Tang. I chose these sources because they were both at the most at expertise with the subject of architecture here in Xizhou. The questions I wanted to answer first started off with the whole architecture of a house in Xizhou but after I got the most basic questions that I had answered, I focused more on the main entry gate of homes. The questions that I wanted answered after that focused on the meaning of the gate and what the designs and things represented. The main point that I hope to share with my audience would be the meaning of the main entry gate to living structures in Bai Minority architecture.
From this experience, I was able take away a lot of new skills. One of the biggest skill that I learned was how to interact with other people. I used to be very shy when it came to talking to people that I didn't know well. Personally, it made me more confident after I was able to speak with other local people since that was basically the only way I could learn new things about my topic. I now can approach a person and ask them questions that I would want to ask instead of asking a friend or a teacher to do that for me. It also made me learn how to not always rely on the internet but instead learn from all the experts that were around me here in Xizhou. When I am in school, I would always rely on the internet since that was the only source but I learned a hands-on learning is much more effective and accurate. I also learned how to not over look anything and that I should look at every little detail which would tell a different and unique story each which helped me when I was learning about the architecture in Xizhou for my Inquiry Project.
During the course of my study, the focus of my project shifted a bit. At first, I was more focused on the whole architecture of the house and how it was actually structured. However, after I had answered all the my questions for that part of my project, I focused more onto one part of it which was the main entry gate of a home. I changed the focus of my project because I wanted to explain to my audience and learn for myself how one detail of the house could have a really big meaning to it and be very important to the house. I could also learn a whole lot more about my topic by focusing on one point rather than learning about the architecture of the whole house.
The most difficult part of my research I believe was finding the people that could help me with my project since there weren't a lot of people who really knew all about main entry gates in Bai minority architecture. Nearly everybody would know the basic things about the gates here but only a few of them would know in detail. I was very lucky to actually find people and learn a lot of things from them. Another difficult part of my research was communicating with the people I was asking. I could understand a majority of the things that they had told me but I had a difficult time asking these people questions since my chinese was not very good. I also had a hard time understanding some people because the dialect that was sort of mixed with their chinese when they told me information. So even if I could approach them, I still ended up having to bring a friend that could speak chinese very well or Mr. Tafel in order for me to understand what they were saying.
I had a lot of moments where I felt really shocked about the information that I found. I knew a bit about the architecture in Xizhou from research before leaving to Xizhou, but as soon I started learning all these new things about my topic, it was a whole new level of information. When I first discovered about the designs of a gate and how they held different meanings, I felt facinated with the information that I had found. This information also led to new questions and wonderings that I never had before. It was similar to all the "aha" moments that I had been through in the past time that I had been spending in Xizhou.
This project helped me understand my topic better since I was in a place which was surrounded by experts. I was also able to understand my topic better since the people in Xizhou had better answers and more information about my topic compared to when I was using the internet. In some sites, they would state opposing information but since the information actually originated in Xizhou, I was able to get much accurate answers to my questions. This project also helped me interact with people in and around Xizhou since that was the only way we could actually learn. We would spend around two hours a day just talking to people who would help us find answers to our questions. Since Xizhou is also quite a small town, we would bump into them every now and then so we never failed to greet them and create a better relationship with the people. My learning journey also helped me learn new things about myself. I learned that I could notice small details in structures which actually made me want to focus on the main entry gates in Bai Minority architecture. I also realized when I find out something new which was really unexpected, I feel really excited about it and couldn't wait to find out more.
If I had to go back in time and do this project again, I would probably have spent more time slowly working on my Inquiry Project everyday and finding out new information. I would have spent more time trying to be in time with the schedule and not hand in anything a bit late. Some advice that would have helped would probably be if we had a list of people we could contact that could help us with our project because some of us didn't know who to approach as we were completely foreign to the village. It also would have been better if we could have known the village a bit better in the beginning because there were times when we wouldn't know where to go in order for us to learn a bit more. If somebody were to continue what they had done in the future, they could focus on some other part in Bai Minority architecture and prehaps design that part of it as well. If somebody kept building on the Architecture project and kept designing, in the end we would have a whole Microcampus house designed by the students that have been through this wonderful experience.
I would like to thank everybody who had helped and supported me through out this project. I want to mainly thank Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, Xiao Tang and the B4 crew for making this project and experience enjoyable. I would like to thank Hu Lijun, Mr. Yang, and all the other local people in Xizhou for teaching me about Bai Minority architecture which I found very exciting each time I learned something new from them. I also like to thank my friends and family in Shanghai who supported me when doing my project.