Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
Previously in Phase 0, I came up with a brief topic I would like to focus on in Xizhou. This is Phase 1 where I will pose real questions to guide me through my project and build background knowledge on my topic which is religions in Xizhou and how they differentiate the locals.
Regarding my topic, I still have little information. I know that religion could take up a major part of life and reflects greatly on culture. The locals of different religion may have unique ways of life that were affected by their religion. Two major religions in Xizhou are Islam, worshipped by Hui minority, and Benzhu, a dominant belief among the Bai minority. I learned about customs and history of Islam such as rituals and the role of mosques, but some practices might not be the same in Xizhou as it is such a common belief in rest of the world and the way of worship tends to change in different areas.
My information comes from Mr. T who, in order to help me choose my topic, gave me basic facts of common beliefs in Xizhou. Most facts about Islam were gained through my seventh-grade social studies class last year. Other more details about the actual worshipers in Xizhou come from writings of previous Microcampus participants that I looked through. For example, Ben S. and Norman H. both chose religious studies; they focused on Benzhu worshippers and Muslims. They mentioned the difference between the two kinds of religion and the influence of historic events such as the cultural revolution.
I hope to learn more about the ways religion influence the lives of people, and different or similar aspects of each religion. To prevent my work from becoming biased and ill-informed, I would like to get to know worshippers of different age group and gender. I think I could also visit mosques and religious leaders for this purpose. I would also like to find out other minor beliefs in Xizhou and consider how they are viewed in the society. Given my Chinese skills, I am uncertain about how much of this I could accomplish, but I am ready to challenge myself.
I did additional background research in order to help with my understanding of how my project might look like and guide me in the future. The product of my research will be found in Phase 3.
After my research, I developed a list of questions to help me with my project during the beginning of my research in the village. The italic sentences below the questions are the possible answers; they are not final.
I have arrived in Xizhou and conducted some investigations regarding my topic. I gained more knowledge related to my questions which helped me answer them, as well as unexpected ideas. They can all be found in my Phase 3 workspace.
Perspective of Modern Daily Life
1. How does religion intervene in daily lives of locals Xizhou?
As in other parts of the world, religion does take up a part in the lives of local believers but not to a radical extent. Some special ceremonies like marriage and funerals may be affected by religion, and people hold regular meetings inside their communities to pray and worship.
2. Does religion affect how people view certain groups of people?
Right now, I do not know much of this issue since I have never met any of the religious people in Xizhou. Although it could not be said that religion does not have an effect on how humans judge others, it must not be as significant in other parts of the world where religious extremists end up killing groups of people such as the homosexuals, considering how peaceful Xizhou is.
3. How does passing down of belief take place in households of different beliefs?
Muslim households may bring their children to mosques regularly or have imams visiting the house to educate them. Benzhuist children may follow their parents to temples or have a wise figure to tell them about the aspects of Benzhu for disciplining their children.
4. When a Muslim marries a Benzhu worshipper, what are the most significant changes the couple face?
It could be as small as eating habits and certain ceremonies that a person another religion celebrates. If one decides to change the religion one believes in for marriage, he or she may be challenged to adapt to the new situation and grow accustomed to rituals and prayings.
Difference Between the Ideals
5. How does Benzhu views on life and Islamic views on life differ amongst the locals?
While the Benzhu worshippers believe in the cycle of death and rebirth due to the influence of Buddhism, the Muslims in Xizhou believe there is only one chance in life.
6. How does the purpose of religion differ between Benzhu and Islam?
Both religions may share major points such as the existence of karma, punishment for evil and reward for the good, but the ways they try to achieve this could vary. Islam might try to make more people worship Allah and obey him while Benzhu is more flexible and related to nature.
7. Are there any major contradictions between the teachings of Benzhu and Islam in Xizhou?
Because of its Daoist and Buddhist influence, Benzhu is focused on the balance of life. It could revolve more around humans compared to Islam since Islam focuses on the love towards its God and a Benzhuist may believe in the enlightenment of an individual based on its Buddhist background.
8. How did the two religion become a popular belief in Xizhou over the course of history?
Based on my information, Muslims might have come in contact with the locals during the period of trade through the silk road. Some might have settled there and spread more of the belief. Benzhu, on the other hand, must have emerged within the local communities to fit their culture as it includes local figures and other blends of Chinese philosophies.
9. Are there any religious regulations reinforced by the government that varies on the religion?
Since Islam originated from outside of China and have been brought in by foreigners, Muslims might have faced more persecutions and discrimination during the cultural revolution. They may still face unfair treatment by the Chinese government like the Uyghurs because of this factor, the actions of the Hui minority seems to be unthreatening.
10. Were there contradicting ways of coping with the cultural revolution between Benzhu worshippers and Muslims?
Based on my current knowledge, Mao Zedong aimed to diminish all religions, so the way the religious suffered must be similar. Since there are still religious believers around, communities could have made underground organizations to continue their practices.
Before I leave for Xizhou, I need to learn more about the basics of Benzhu and Islam beliefs, especially what they value the most, to make my research more meaningful. I would also like dig deeper into the aspects of cultural revolution like how it started, what type of persecutions did it carry out, and its permanent impacts on the Chinese society.
Now, I will move onto Phase 2 to find helpful resources.