Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection

Updated 6 years 8 months ago

At the beginning of this journey I was required to narrow down different topics that I thought were interesting. It was hard because the list was extensive that there were many topics I wanted to choose.  There were many possible topics such as: Ethnic Minority Issues, Local Governance, Government Graffiti, Bai Minority Culture (e.x dance, clothing, music), Local Recreation, Tea Traditions, Body Language, Wood Carving, Religious Studies or Architecture. All these were topics that caused extreme interest. 

Other topics such as: Local Education System, Water Treatment, Local History, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Local Food Products, Bai Language or Antiques etc. were also topics that were very interesting, however they weren't topics that peaked my interest enought that I wanted to pursue research with them. 

After narrowing down to the areas that I was most interested in I chose the topic Bai Minority Music. Once we begin the journey in Xizhou we'll get to begin researching our topics, while getting real-life information. The list of topics we were able to choose from was broad and had a wide-ranging amount of topics that students going on the journey would be able to choose to research. But I was not able to choose all the topics I was interested in. 

Due to the feedback given to myself by Mr.Tafel I was able to further narrow down my final 3 topics to my final topic. In the end I chose the topic Bai Minority Music.

What questions do you have about any of those projects?

-How is Xizhou's music unique? What makes it so?

-Are these textiles unique to Xizhou?

-How does the culture affect its community?

-What particular things make Xizhou's architecture interesting? How do they create houses?

-How does the music affect people?

-Is there anything special about the food? Is there anything specifically added that is completely exclusive to Xizhou?

-How do the residents incorporate wood carvings into their homes?

-How long did it take to learn how to carve wood?

-How did music bring the community together?

Which ones are of the most intrest? Why? I am the most intrested in topics that have to do with craft or the performing arts. I feel that I could express my personal ethics and ideas clearly through these topics as topics such as these are more within my forte and I have a lot to say about them. After looking over the list, I narrowed it down to these 3 topics:

Topic 1: Textile Production (Tie Dye)

Out of all of the topics possible to choose from I chose this as one of my final 3 because I have always had a liking for tie dye. The designs that come out of tie dye are always so elaborate in a simple way. A simple spiral on a t-shirt looks very elaborate even though the process is very simple. Tie dye is important to me because of the vibrant colors that are usually shown. These colors are so bright and happy that they make the others wonder and smile at the designs. I chose tie dye because it seems to be something that has a process that would really show me more about Xizhou. From what I have heard many of the people living in more rural areas do not have access to as easy resources as we do. I feel that they would have to make the dye that is shown on the cloth. I would really like to find a local designer and if possible go with them one day in order to find out all about the process. 

Topic 2: Wood Carving 

I also chose wood carving as one of my final 3 because I have always admired the wood carvings in chinese 四合院. The pillars, designs and doors have always been intricately carved with designs that I find abolutely amazing. I feel that wood carving is something that slowly disappearing as the world becomes more modern. This is important because while I welcome the new, I feel that we should remember and celebrate the old. Wood carving is a technique, to be able to carve something beguiling out of hard wood is quite a skill to have. I plan to find out how the residents of Xizhou keep this practice alive in their daily lives. I would also like to know how they incorporate carvings into their homes. I would like to go around asking the residents about the carvings in their homes, and if there are different meanings for the carvings. I would also like to find a local wood carver and watch how they make their carvings. I am interested in learning about the whole process in making a carving.

Topic 3: Bai Minority Music

Bai Minority Music was my final choice and I chose it because music is like i said in my about me, one of the biggest influences in my life. I grew up around music and I have heard many different types before. I believe that compared to other forms of Music, Bai Minority Music has it's own special qualities that make it one of a kind. This topic is important to me because I know of many people that hear music, but they don't really "listen" to it. Just by hearing it and saying it's good doesnt neccesarily mean they've "listened". Music is something that resonates within the soul. If I do choose this topic, I want to learn as much as I can about Bai Minority Music and try and figure out how it affects people. I plan to find out exactly what makes it so special and how it correlates with people and their happiness. I believe that during the research process this is one of those topics that requires me to talk to many of the people living there. In order to really listen, understand and be able to feel the music, I think I have to first find out how the people make their instruments and how the sound comes out. I would like to talk to some of the local villagers living there and ask them what music means to them and how they view it as an art form. I would like to see how they make their instruments and maybe visit a local instrument maker and try my hand in making one of their more easier made instruments. At the end I would like to try and compose or play a piece with them or for them.


Upon receiving feedback from Mr. Tafel I have decided upon choosing Bai Minority Music as my final topic. Bai Minority Music first intrested me because of the uniqueness of its sound and texture and how it differed from the more listened to genres of music such as pop, alternative, rock, or classical. The messages and stories that the music convey has created such an impact that it still resides with people up till now. I would like to hear the opinions of the locals and hear how music has impacted their lives. I believe that the music was made trying to convey a deeper meaning and I would like to find out what Bai Minority Music means to the people and to the village. This will aid my learning about music in general and it would be interesting to learn about this as a subject and how it affected the history of the village.

The reason that I decided to drop all other topics and pursue Bai Minority Music was because I felt that I had probably the biggest connection with that topic out of the three i chose. While Textile Production and Wood Carving are both topics with much to offer, music was the most interesting to me. But if possible when there is free time I would like to trying to make something dealing with textiles or wood carving. After all going to Yunnan is to get out of the "Shanghai bubble" and its an experience made to try new things.


During Phase 0 I was required to look through the list of inquiry projects and choose topics I was interested in. I eliminated topics and narrowed down the list of topics that interested me and finally chose my final topic. After I chose Bai Minority Music as my final topic I moved on to Phase 1, where I will do my best to narrow my topic and futher my thinking of questions that will benefit my learning of my topic even more. 

Hello! I'm 13 years old and in 8th grade. I'm from Hong Kong and this is my 1st year in Shanghai. I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for 8 years, moved to Beijing for 4 and now I'm in Shanghai. I'm half cantonese, half taiwanese. Some of my hobbies include drawing, playing badminton, singing, and playing the piano and guitar. I have a huge passion for music and it's one of the biggest influences in my life. I've played guitar for 1 1/2 years and the piano for 10 years now. Now that I'm back in Shanghai I don't feel at all regretful that I chose to come on this journey. I miss the clear starry nights of Xizhou, the fresh air and the sense of calm being there gives me. This was an experience that I will never forget and I wish the future Microcampus kids the best of luck in their journey to come!