Phase 2: Finding Helpful Resources
I used the keywords "Mao", "propaganda", "China", "rural China", "Xizhou Dali" and "wall propaganda" to drive my research. All of these words have a direct relationship with my topic, "Wall Propaganda Messages", or the context behind it. I can often trust the information if it includes its own sources, I can see the authors, and if it is relatively recent (probably after 2012, though I am pretty flexible). The easiest way for me to figure out the authors are if the authors are straight-up listed, or at least if the organization is listed.
A key resource that was extremely helpful for finding experts was chineseposters.net. From this website, I already gathered significant information about Maoist-era propaganda, which can be found in Phase 3. Under their Contact section, they also had the names of two experts: Stefan R. Landsberger and Marien van der Heijden, both of whom helped find the content displayed on the website. Stefan's email is at email@example.com, and Marien's is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is a sample of the first email (the second email contains similar wording).
Dear Mr. Landsberger,
For a school project, I have been analysing propaganda in modern China, especially with focus on the village of Xizhou, Dali in Yunnan Province. I found the website chineseposters.net as a wonderful source of information, and I would like to sincerely thank you for all of your contribution. One of my project requirements is to contact an expert on my topic. If you have the time, will you look at my progress (at http://www.sasmicrocampus.org/projects/blogs/8602/students) and give your feedback?
Also, I am required to send you a list of ten questions that I asked about my topic. Please do not answer these questions, but I would love your recommendations on more sources of information.
1. What are some demographic misconceptions that the Xizhou villagers will have of foreign countries, especially those related to government propaganda?
2. What are some generalizations that Xizhou villagers will have of developed countries? How would government propaganda have shaped these views?
3. What are some generalizations that Xizhou villagers will have of underdeveloped countries? How would government propaganda have shaped these views?
4. How does Chinese propaganda mention and use other countries in order to make themselves look good? What do villagers think of "outward belittlement", if they are aware of it at all?
5. Who are the greatest Chinese leaders according to the Xizhou villagers? What factors, including government propaganda, would have shaped these views?
6. What do the Xizhou villagers know about 20th century Chinese history? How would government propaganda have shaped these views?
7. How is propaganda spread about Xizhou? How can I analyze every method of propaganda in Xizhou?
8. Where are wall propaganda messages placed? What factors impact their placement?
9. What colours are predominant in wall propaganda messages? What results can certain colours convey?
10. How is art used in wall propaganda messages? What results can art bring?
Mr. Landsberger has replied to me. He gave me a tip that propaganda in Chinese (宣传) has a very different meaning than its English translation, and to be careful during my interviews. He also encouraged me to look at propaganda on Weixin. In helpful defiance, he answered some of my ten questions, mentioning that the Japanese and South Koreans would be hated, and that I should ask about the country on Yunnan's immediate border (Myanmar).
A 3-to-5 is a recorded short conversation (about 3 to 5 minutes long) that I used to gather information and sources about my Inquiry Project. I had 3-to-5's with multiple adults (Mr. T, Ms. Song, Ms. Mai, Mrs. Linden) and continued until I had enough sources to keep me busy for the next few weeks. I chose these people because of their proximity to me and because all of them were "outsiders" to Xizhou but knew the place very well. My efforts were not wasted, because the conversations often took much longer than just 5 minutes, and supplied me with bountiful information. Below are some notes about possible resources that I took about the conversations.
• Mr. Linden, foreigner himself
• Slogan outside house
• Mr. Yang Xiao Yun, Linden Centre staff, knows Bai culture & foreigner interactions
• Mr. Zhao, security guards, good knowledge of locals
• Mr. Du, antique dealer
• Propaganda in small alleys or small courtyards
• Alley between Sifangjie and home has useful propaganda
• house looking towards a field near Linden Centre, fading message (Photoshop?)
• street, west of Sifangjie, has useful propaganda
• museum showing Yang family (big family in Xizhou)
• Mr. Linden, learned about history & knows locals
• Antique dealers, historians of Xizhou
• Mr. Yang antique dealer, at Linden Centre concert
• Antique shops on Sifangjie
• Mr. Duan, former government official & army officer (fought two wars in Vietnam), Party member, accessible in evening or late afternoon
• Mr. Du, antique dealer, former soldier
• Small businesses in Sifangjie, frequent interaction with foreigners
• Mr. Linden, multiple foreign guests & mixture of local, other Chinese staff
• (mentions foreigner perceptions for Xizhou locals vs. other Chinese people in Xizhou)
• Anyone with direct customer interaction
• might be anti-Japanese directed
• the young with no foreigner interaction (but ideas)
• Restaurant owners on Sifangjie Square - around for the longest
• Golden Flower (Jinhua) restaurant
• Xizhou Baba people
• People are very accepting, no disapproval to Lindens' actions
• Expectations: here as guest, wants to highlight Xizhou culture & employ local people for that reason
Conveniently, I had a 3-to-5 with Mrs. Linden in the Linden Centre library, which meant that I could scour the shelves for books I could use for my project. Possible topics that I looked for were some non-fiction books (biographies or general history) about Maoist China and the propaganda he enforced, or firsthand accounts of outsiders coming to China and experiencing culture clashes (perhaps incorrect perceptions) with the people and lifestyle here.
Now, after I reached out to experts for guidance about my topic, whether online or in person, I will interpret the information I receive in Phase 3.