Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In the past section of Phase 0, I shared my process of elimination to draw a conclusion on my inquiry project topic. After having made the choice of researching on "Xizhou Perspectives: Looking Outward, Looking Ahead", in Phase 1, I will be delving deeper into my topic through providing prior background information and significant questions to guide me through the process of research.
The prior knowledge I have on this topic is generally basic information. The Bai minority have been maintaining their line of heritage at least for thousands of years, presumably since the Han dynasty. Their long, rich history alludes to the fact that their historical remnants are a source of great pride and identity for their people, an incredibly valuable piece of artifact that connects the past with the present moment of human history. However, parts of the world are going through a renovation in this century of rapid globalization. Not only are historical artifacts damaged and forgotten, but the distinct identity and characteristics of a culture are diminishing from attempts to integrate modern technology in all aspects of society. Xizhou is still a region with remnants of the past, but tourism is becoming a major trend in the town. They also have received a lot of foreign influences due to their thriving trade industry. The Bai minority would be able to provide different, thought-provoking, and interesting perspectives regarding their future and external influences and possibly discuss some of the serious on-going issues.
Many of my former understandings about the topic were based on my observations, experiences, and news articles. I encountered many old, worn down buildings going through restoration in Shanghai. Some rare, symbolic elements of this city were being adjusted to the modern society that many people desire. Also, I have read news articles talking about conventional styles of life converting into unorthodox lifestyles, such as modern agricultural technology immensely impacting farmers' lives. The constant observations on the change in Shanghai and parts of the world helped me stir up thoughts regarding this issue.
I am willing to learn about what Xizhou can potentially contribute to the Chinese community. I want to hear each of the voices of the villagers from various age spectrums to understand the many perspectives of each generation. Throughout the interviews, I would also like to see the link between the future and the past, especially how reflections of the history can determine people's thoughts on all aspects of the world. Furthermore, I wish to receive some more historical background information and rare stories of the past about the once flourishing towns of commerce in Xizhou.
In Phase 3, I conducted research through collecting some background information.
The following are ten questions that I will guide me through the process of research once I get to the village. The italics underneath each question are possible answers I have generated before conducting additional research. According to the purpose and aim of each of the questions, there are categorized into separate groups.
Questions on Past/ Present/ Future
1. How does the village look like today compared to the past?
Over the course of time, villages have integrated western styles of buildings, created new highway roads, and embraced new technology that spurred more economic growth. In some other areas, the buildings and streets look alike to what has existed a few decades ago.
2. Is there evidence of advanced technology integrated into today's Xizhou?
Time costly and effective machines are served for mass productions in companies, such as the Yuxi factory that produces tobacco. New farming technology has also replaced conventional methods of harvesting.
3. What are the expectations of villagers towards the future of Xizhou?
Generally, the elders would want the town in a similar way to remember history and show appreciation to the valuable remnants of the past. However, young people would view development and globalization as a positive influence on their lives. They can gain more job opportunities and widen their individual scopes through entering international communities.
Questions on Tourism / Development
4. What might be the benefits and disadvantages of Xizhou undergoing development?
The advantages are even rural areas like Xizhou can export and import goods at a faster pace, thus actively participating in commerce that could bring profit. The disadvantages are the possibilities of tainting the reputation or history of a well-preserved tradition to bring about convenience and similar developments with other places.
5. How were the villagers influenced by economic growth from tourism? How about the developers and officials?
More tourists came to small, individual businesses, so it allowed villagers to earn profit from curious visitors wanting to experience the unique culture of Xizhou. However, in some cases, big companies tended to attract more tourists by dominating most of the business proportions. As for the developers, they continued constructing more tourist sites in towns regardless of infiltrating into the homes of villagers.This caused some conflict and discontentment among the normal villagers.
6. How is tourism affecting the authenticity of the Bai minority?
Tourism can allow people from different places to experience Xizhou. It provides opportunities for visitors to learn about the history, values and beliefs, and the traditions of the Bai that have existed for centuries. In some cases, traditions are exploited to attract more tourists and earn money. Developers have torn down old buildings and created theme parks to rebuild the historical settings to appease visitors' desires of living in the past. Furthermore, many tourists are not experiencing the authenticity of Xizhou, but are rather purchasing products, eating foods, and visiting sites that were deliberately adjusted to gain popularity with popular culture.
7. If there were struggles of going through development, what were they?
One of the problems were corruption within the village between villagers and officials. The construction of many new roads invaded the private spaces of the inhabitants that did not have any power to interfere with the situation. The ambiguous wording of the law and the lack of political voice helped officials to exploit lands. Some villagers were not relocated or compensated sufficiently even though these were the fundamental expectations when using private land for development. Through continuing with this injustice, officials were more likely to make connections with higher status officials while villagers had to worry about losing their farmlands, house, and social status within the community for possessing less property. I am still lacking some information on the current situation of such problems.
Questions on the Traditions of Xizhou
8. As being one of the ethnic minorities, is it important for the Bai people (Xizhou villagers) to maintain its purest form of traditions? How are traditions valued?
The Bai culture is a very rare, special tradition, and they have been passed on since the old dynasty era. Villagers would definitely value the heritage of tradition above many other factors because it has already taken a significant portion of their lives and defined their identity. They will also have pride towards belonging to an ethnic minority group that still practices ancient Chinese traditions. Traditions take in many different forms nowadays such as in dances, music, and festivals worshipping communal gods.
9. Has there been any transformation in the culture? If so, how has the change impacted people's lives?
One example of a change in culture was selling different products. In the past, traditional tie-dyes were only sold in simple patterns of indigo colors. As tourists sought for diversity in the tie-dyes, villagers began to produce dyes of different colors and patterns, such as marijuana leaf patterns. The leaf indicates Xizhou's contact with nature and resembles the identity of Xizhou people that many foreigners expect. This particular adaption brought about more customers to purchase the products, spurring great economic growth and profit. Change can lead to the improvement of the villager's lives economically. Nonetheless, there is still a concern about the diminishing of culture that truly symbolizes the Bai people's identity. Another approach to this notion is that some changes had direct influences on people's lives, such as the acknowledgment of women. Before the founding of People's Republic of China in 1949, the Bai culture discriminated against women. Only men had the right to inherit property, there were arranged marriages, and women had to stay indoors to dedicate themselves to housework on a regular basis. However, these feudal customs gradually diminished as the culture progressed towards the modern era.
10. How do you view the Linden Center? How has it affected the economy and culture?
The Linden Center would be viewed to have taken a great leadership in reinforcing the current tourist industry in Xizhou. The villagers would feel appreciation and pride towards the opportunity to introduce their Bai culture in a well-preserved way.
Before going on the trip, I still have to research more on how globalization is affecting Yunnan nowadays compared to the past. To achieve this, I will read current news articles and stories providing this information. Moving on from Phase 1 where I generated ten big questions, I will be finding helpful resources in Phase 2. In Phase 3, I have answered the ten big questions with new perspectives based on my field research in Xizhou.