Phase 2: Finding Helpful Resources

Updated 4 months 2 weeks ago

In Phase 1, I created 10 big questions I will attempt to answer during my trip to Xizhou. On this Phase, I will be looking for resources that could lead me to some answers and more questions. 

During my research, I focused on certain keywords to gain information that was more crucial to my project. Some of them were "history," "Cultural Revolution," and "ideals." I wanted to find out the basic distinction between religions in Xizhou and how they evolved over time to become what it is today. I familiarized myself with the three most prevalent beliefs of Islam and Benzhu, a mixture of Daoism and Buddhism. Further reading about the cultural revolution in China helped me get a grasp of recent events worshippers suffered and the impacts of the government in religious communities in China. 

To ensure the validity of my research, I relied on the database of my school most of the time. Articles from World Book Online showed the authors at the end of each article, which made my research much easier. However, I still made clear that the information I accessed was up to date and written by reliable people with professional backgrounds regarding the topic, especially when I visited new websites and books. 

I have reached out an expert for feedback on my work. I decided to contact Dr. Koen Wellens due to his publications and special interest in ethnic minority and religion of Southwest China. 

Dear Dr. Wellens

My name is Alex, and I am an 8th grader at Shanghai American School. I have been researching the religion of ethnic minorities in China for a 4-week program in Xizhou, Yunnan. 

I wanted to receive comments from experts on my topic in order to improve my work and noticed your articles and books that related to my project. I was hoping if you could provide me with advice regarding my project that could be found here. Below are the questions I am trying to answer; I am seeking for general feedback on it and possible links to sources I could use. I want to be clear that I am not asking for answers, but for some comments and ways of improvement.

Perspective of Modern Daily Life
1. Does religion intervene in daily lives of locals XiZhou? If so, how?
2. Does religion affect how people view certain groups of people?
3. How does passing down of belief take place in households of different beliefs?
4. When a Muslim marries a Benzhu worshipper, what are the most significant changes the couple face?
Difference Between the Ideals
5. How does Benzhu views on life and Islamic views on life differ amongst the locals?
6. How does the purpose of religion differ between Benzhu and Islam?
7. Are there any major contradictions between the teachings of Benzhu and Islam in Xizhou?
8. How did the two religion become a popular belief in Xizhou over the course of history?
Historical Perspectives
9. Are there any religious regulations reinforced by the government that varies on the religion?
10. Were there contradicting ways of coping with the cultural revolution between Benzhu worshippers and Muslims?

Thank you for your kindness, and I would be grateful for any guidance. 

Sincerely,

Alex K. 

Dr. Wellen has not written back, but I am still hoping as I sent the email quite recently. I will update this page once he replies.

After I arrived in Xizhou, I completed my "Three-to-Fives" with the knowledgeable adults at Yang Zhou Ran, where Microcampus students live. The point of "Three-to-Fives" is to find first person resources regarding my topic. To the interviewees, I introduced myself, my topic, what I hope to learn from the experience and other people who could help me through the process; the purpose of this is to gain a list of local people I could visit and interview, hopefully by building connections with them. I chose Mr. T and Ms. Mai because I believed they were the most knowledgeable since they have been running Microcampus for several years, meaning they had a lot of experience in supporting students like me and knew Xizhou very well. Next, I decided to talk to Ms. B and Mr. Chen, hoping I could get a new spectrum of people of different generations. Furthermore, I asked Mr. Zhao, our security guard due to the fact that he is a local, and also to ask for realistic understanding about the real Xizhou. Here is the list of possible people I could consider I made after the interview:

Mr. Tafel

  • Mr. Duan (retired soldier, government official)
  • Mr. Huang (imam)
  • Mr. Du (antique dealer)
  • Mr. Li  (Muslim, lives near Si Fang Jie)
  • Mr. Linden
  • Mr. Yang (the casket maker)
  • Inscriber of tombstones 

Ms. Mai

  • Ms. Ma (bakery owner)
  • Mr. He (security guard)
  • Ms. Yang (kitchen staff)
  • Hui restaurants at Si Fang Jie 
  • A family run noodle restaurant where a man makes noodles outside
  • Er Kuai shop neat the noodle restaurant 
  • Ms. Zhao (owner of gu zhen xiao chi)
  • Yard Entrance Restaurant

Ms. B

  • Mr. Michael Yang(Linden Centre staff)
  • Mr. Zhao (security guard)
  • Restaurants where women wear headscarves
  • Any Bai people
  • People at the mosque
  • Restaurants near the mosque

Mr. Chen

  • Mr. Yang and Ms. Mai (antique shop owner)
  • Ms. Dai (Linden Centre)
  • Mother of Mr. Michael Yang (Linden Centre)
  • Mosque teacher (he couldn't remember the name)
  • Younger people at the Benzhu temple
  • People at Zhong An Si

Mr. Zhao

  • An old lady at the temple near Linden Centre
  • His wife 

I believe I have done enough three-to-five, now that I gathered about thirty individuals who could guide me through my project. I have more than enough people to keep me busy throughout the whole trip.

Some books from the Linden Centre could help, too. I know that there is a book about the cultural revolution and a book about Buhddism. I could use these to deepen my understanding of Bai religion and history. 

During this phase, I looked for possible people and resources regarding my topic. My next phase, Phase 3, is gathering and researching information and interpreting it. 

Hello. I am 14 years old. I was in Xizhou with fifteen other students. I am from Korea, and I lived in Shanghai for more than half of my life. I wanted to get to know the neighbors and learn the culture in Xizhou. My time here has truly changed my life forever. It helped me discover who I am and who I want to be. I will never forget this experience.