Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 4 months 3 weeks ago

In Phase 0, I narrowed down the large list of topics I could choose from to find my final inquiry project topic; love and marriage. Then, in Phase 1, I organized the knowledge I currently possess about this topic and what information I will need to gather for this project. After that, I found helpful sources and local contacts in Phase 2. Now in Phase 3, I will be researching love and marriage before and during the trip.

Background Information (from Phase 1):

I have a pretty good understanding of how love impacts marriage and marriage impacts society in America. In America, love plays a huge role in marriage most of the time. Marriage is usually ones own choice, whether it be for benefits such as tax reductions or the want to build a life with someone they love. In Phase 1, I found that my main questions about this topic all fell under one big question; how, currently, does marriage in Xizhou differ from traditional Chinese marriage and marriage in America? To answer this big question of mine so I can find a direction for my research, I wanted to learn about how marriage partners are chosen and the wedding traditions currently in Xizhou, traditionally in China, and in America.

I learned from Risa Y's[1]  final project that, in 1950-1966, men were only required around 360 RMB to marry someone. During this time, the wedding clothes were very traditional. For example, the bride would have to wear a mirror on her dress when she went into the groom's house to repel evil. Then, during the cultural revolution in 1966-1976, marriages became more simple. Marriages were because of compatibility, and the wife would pack up her things and move in with the groom, without the traditional ceremonies. From 1979 to the present, the ideology surrounding marriage has changed drastically. Now, some people focus more on their careers then their love lives, leading to them not get married all together.

Because of the decline in people wanting to get married, proposals and "bride prices" have become more over the top [4]. There are also modern day matchmakers called love hunters and places called marriage markets where parents can go to find possible partners for their kids [2], but as arranged marriage has been illegal since the 1950s[3], parents can no longer choose who their kid marries. Even though the ideologies surrounding marriage have changed a lot, there is still a lot of stigma around being a female over 25 and single [5]. In China, there is a derogatory term that people call these women. 剩女, shèng nǚ, or leftover women is used by family, friends, and other people to describe single women past 25.

For the Bai ethnic minority, love and marriage has always had a lot of traditions and customs. Family was very important to the Bai minority people, so families would very rarely arrange marriages with other families too far away. All marriages were arranged, showing that love was not a determining factor in marriage for the Bai minority people. A wife's purpose was to bear children and keep house. It was customary for the groom to pay the bride's family around 50 to 100 silver dollars, the amount varying based on the bride's level of education. On the wedding day, a lucky day decided on by both families, the bride would ride in a sedan chair with red paper, rosettes, and streamers to the groom's house. Once married, the wife had very little independence. Because the bride always moved in with the groom and his family, she would be controlled by her mother or sister in law [6].

Information From Local Contacts:

In this section, I will be recording some information I got in the conversations I had with residents of Xizhou.

3.14.18 Xiao Shuang

  • 22
  • Marriage is not important because of "自己开心," or, own happiness.
  • Dating in Xizhou is boring for young adults because of conflicting work schedules and the lack of things to do at night
  • Her parents never pressured her to get married
  • She had not started dating until she was 21
  • She thinks that people in Xizhou start dating when they are around 10 or 11
  • Xiao Shuang thinks that she may or may not get married in the future based on the circumstances

3.14.18 and 3.22.18 Emma

  • Young adult
  • Emma's parents do not pressure her to get married because she has a boyfriend
  • She thinks marriage is important because being married ensures someone to keep you company when you get older
  • Love and marriage is a big part of life in Xizhou
  • She thinks that kids start dating in high school or college
  • Emma thinks that she will get married eventually 
  • If she had kids she would tell them dating and marriage is to make you happy and it is about love
  • Her parents never told her about dating 
  • They set an example for her
  • They told her marriage was about compatibility of strengths and comfortability with a person

Though Xiao Shuang and Emma had differing perspectives, they both seemed very laid back about the topic when I was talking to them. They would laugh at each others responses and did not seem to strict about their ideas. Though Emma thought marriage was important and Xiao Shuang did not, Emma did not try and make Xiao Shuang agree with her. They each seemed to have the idea that love and marriage is a very individual topic and there is no set of rules that everyone has to follow with it. Going into this, I had no idea that people in Xizhou would be so laid back about love and marriage. Talking to Xiao Shuang and Emma really got me more interested in how younger people view love and marriage. 

3.15.18 and 3.22.18 Martin

  • Young adult
  • Chinese schools do not allow teens to date
  • After school, teens meet up at the lake, a bridge, and make plans to watch movies
  • His girlfriend comes to Xizhou from Beijing to visit 
  • They video call and talk on the phone a lot 
  • His family thinks marriage is very important
  • He thinks his relationship with his girlfriend would not change because of marriage, but they would get married because it is important to both of their families
  • He does not think marriage and weddings are very important, but he thinks that the commitment and responsibility that marriage represents is important
  • In Bai minority weddings, the groom goes to the bride's home and asks her to marry him and gives the family money, sings, and dances and bows to the brides parents
  • There is a wedding tradition that further away areas do where the second day after the wedding, the bride is not allowed to touch the ground with her feet so the groom carries her
  • His relationship requires a lot of understanding and respect because their work and school hours are conflicting so it is hard to find time to connect
  • It is hard for them to find time to meet up because traveling is tiring
  • They meet up roughly once a month
  • He would not ask her to move to Xizhou because that would mean her leaving her life in Beijing behind
  • If he had kids he would tell them to try dating for themselves 
  • His parents never talked to him about dating and mostly just set an example for him

3.16.18 Xiao Shuang second conversation

  • Her cousin's wedding was not very traditional
  • The wedding was in Dali 
  • There is one Bai and Han tradition where the bride's shoes are hidden and the groom has to find them and put them on the bride
  • People sing and dance during the ceremony
  • They do ceremonies and traditions at the brides house and the grooms house and then they have a ceremony somewhere else 
  • Some people have weddings in hotels 
  • The wedding is three days. The first is for preparations, the second day is when the bride goes to the grooms house, on the third day the bride and groom go to the brides house

After talking to Xiao Shuang the first time, I got a feeling that her family had rather modern and untraditional views. Once I talked to Martin about more traditional weddings, I knew that I wanted to talk to Xiao Shuang about modern weddings.

3.19.18 Young Couple from Beijing

  • They were taking their own pictures
  • Already had a wedding in Beijing with their family and friends
  • They took their official wedding pictures before the wedding
  • They were only staying in Xizhou for two days 
  • Traveling through Yunnan
  • Wife dressed in white dress

3.19.18 Young Couple from Inner Mongolia

  • Had a group of three photographers taking their pictures
  • Both dressed in red traditional looking clothes
  • Their wedding will be in Inner Mongolia
  • The girlfriend likes Dali and was recommended Xizhou for pictures

After having conversations with two different couples taking their wedding photos, I think I have a better understanding of why people come to Xizhou for wedding pictures. I realized that both of these couples seemed to stumble upon Xizhou in one way or another. The first couple was traveling through Yunnan and happened to stop in Xizhou, while the second couple liked Dali and was then recommended Xizhou. 

3.20.18 Ms. Yang

  • 23 years old
  • Has a boyfriend
  • People get married earlier here
  • Her parents think marriage is important 
  • This is her lunar year (dog), so her parents want her to get married this year
  • She has a boyfriend
  • When dating in Xizhou, people go shopping or go watch movies
  • She is an only child, so her getting married is more important to her parents

3.20.18 Ms. Yang

  • 20 years old
  • Has a boyfriend
  • People of ethnic minorities marry earlier
  • She thinks most people get married when they are around 22 years old
  • She thinks marriage is important because it means you have someone to protect you
  • Her parents do not pressure her to get married yet
  • She has a 25 year old sister who is married
  • If she had a daughter, she would tell her not to date while she is in school but once she is out in the world, she should have a boyfriend to protect them 

After having these conversations with younger people in Sifang Jie, I got a better understanding of how parents have influence their kids decisions surrounding love and marriage. With the 23 year old Ms. Yang, her parents thought it was very important for her to get married because she is an only child, but also they wanted her to get married this year because it is her lunar year. With the 20 year old Ms. Yang, it was not as important for her to get married because she has a sister who is already married. She also gave me a better understanding of not only what her parents what for her, but what she would want for her children.

3.21.18 Ms. Yang from Happy Embroidery

  • Married
  • Marriage is a responsibility
  • Parents tell children they must get married
  • When her kids are growing up she would give them guidance about love and marriage but she would not force them to do anything
  • Most girls get married around 18-20 and boys are normally 1-2 years older
  • Her sister got married at around 27-28
  • She met her husband because they were friends and then they got married
  • From Dali

3.21.18 Ms. Duan from Happy Embroidery

  • Married
  • Agrees with Ms. Yang about marriage
  • Got married around 18-19
  • Working at Happy Embroidery for a couple months 
  • Most people are friends and then fall in love and get married
  • She and her husband knew each other around 2 years before marriage
  • From Xizhou

3.21.18 Mr. Yun from Happy Embroidery

  • He got married when he was 33 years old 
  • People get married later when they go to college and have a job
  • His wife's family made them wait to get married until they were both in better circumstances 
  • Most people marry within the same social and economic class
  • When his daughter grows up, he would give her guidance to study well and then find a good job and partner
  • Having a son is higher stress because they would want him to be able to support his future wife
  • Most families want a son to carry on their family line, but he just wants his daughter to be healthy and in control of her own life
  • Marriage is important, but higher education comes first
  • He has been married to his wife for 6 years and they knew each other for 4-5 months before marriage
  • From nearby village

3.21.18 Ms. Yang from Ba Xi cafe

  • Married 
  • Thinks marriage is very important because it goes hand in hand with how happy you are
  • Married when she was 25
  • It does not matter if you marry early or late as long as you are happy
  • Her parents did not pressure her to get married because they wanted her to find the right person
  • She will probably have kids
  • If she has kids, she would tell them not to worry about marriage because love comes first and then marriage happens
  • She has only been married a few months 
  • She met her husband through an arranged date
  • Love and marriage is very individual 
  • Most of her friends are married
  • Most people get married around 24
  • Some of her friends who are still in college are not married so they are very stressed from their jobs and their family reminding them to get married

My conversations today helped me get a better idea of the perspectives young residents of Xizhou have on love and marriage.

3.26.18 Ms. Li

  • Most people get married around 20 to 30 
  • Can tell she is married based on age 
  • Marriage is important to her but an individual topic
  • Been married 20 years
  • In her 40s 
  • Has kids 
  • Everyone is expected to get married
  • Parents just want their kids to be happy
  • There is not pressure it is just a social norm
  • Her parents never pressured her

3.27.18 Ms. Yang from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao

  • 20 years old 
  • Not dating 
  • Thinks people should not marry too early 
  • Marry around 25 years old 
  • When growing up, her mom told her not to get married too early 
  • Dating is a very individual matter but marriage involves two families 
  • She learned about dating and marriage from examples set by family and friends 
  • School is more important than dating and marriage 
  • Dating is about being happy 

3.27.18 Ms. Ying from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao

  • 26 years old
  • Not dating 
  • Dating is about liking people 
  • Marriage is not too important 
  • Should get married before 30 

3.27.18 Ms. Yang from the store across the street from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao 

  • 28 years old
  • Divorced 
  • Might date again 
  • Marriage is important because women cannot have kids if they are too old 
  • Learned about dating and marriage from example
  • Education is more important than dating and marriage
  • Bai people marry earlier
  • If a girl is not married by the time they are 24 or 25 people talk about them 
  • She got married when she was 22
  • She thinks people should get married later so they have time to experiment and get to know different people 
  • Has a 4 year old child 
  • She wishes she waited and got married later
  • She used to think 26 was a good age to get married but then her friends started getting married at 22 so she did too

My conversations today gave me a better, more complete idea of the reasons behind marriage and more of the typical ideology surrounding love. These conversations also helped me learn how people formed their belief systems. 

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):

Now, I will be using the information I have gathered to answer my questions from Phase 1. I will not be answering some of the questions I wrote then because I have decided that they are unnecessary for the direction I have decided to turn my project towards. I will be changing a lot of my questions because I have decided to change my project to focus on how previous generations have influence modern perspectives on love and marriage. 

1. What do people currently value in a marriage partner, and how does this differ from what people previously valued in marriage partners?
2. Currently, what are the main reasons people in Xizhou decide to get married?
3. How has the treatment and purpose of women in Xizhou changed over time?
4. Has society begun to stress the education of women more heavily? If so, when did this change begin to occur?

I decided not to use these questions because I found that information to create a compare and contrast between the perspectives different generations have on love and marriage was not as important nor as interesting to me as other information and conversations. 

The Perspectives of Young People on Love and Marriage

5. Do parents pressure their kids to find a partner? If so, about what age are the kids when their parents start pressuring them to find a partner?

6. Is marriage thought of as a necessity? If so, when did marriage begin to be so important and what was going on at that time to make marriage necessary?

To make my answers better fit with my interests, I will be changing this question to the following: Is marriage thought of as a necessity? If so, what influenced people to make them believe that marriage is important?

7. How do teens about my age interact with other teens of the opposite sex?
8. What do young girls in Xizhou think about marriage and how does this differ from the perspective of a young boy?

I decided not to use these two questions because it creates more of a compare and contrast between genders when my current goal is to get a full understanding of how parents have influenced their kid's views on love and marriage.

9. How has the perspective kids have on marriage changed throughout generations?

To make my answers better fit with my project, I will be changing this question to the following: How have young adult's perspective on marriage and dating been impacted by their parents, and how would they want to impact their children's perspectives?

Traditions and Customs around Marriage

10. How have the traditions and customs surrounding love and marriage in Xizhou changed over time?

To better answer my question on the impacts previous generations have had on current perspectives surrounding love and marriage, I will be changing this question to the following: What are the current traditions and customs surrounding love and marriage in Xizhou and how have traditions from previous generations impacted them?

Now that I have decided which questions it will be useful for me to use, which ones I should change to further my understanding, and which ones I should get rid of, I will answer the questions I will continue to use below. 

Do parents pressure their kids to find a partner? If so, about what age are the kids when their parents start pressuring them to find a partner?

Parents do not seem to pressure their kids to get married because of the social norms that they expect their children to follow. Parents do not tell children directly that they need to get married, but if they feel that they are getting too old and should start thinking about marriage, they will ask their children questions about their love lives. 

After talking to more people, I have realized that Xiao Shuang and her family's views on dating, love, and marriage are very unconventional. She and her family have a very laid back view on dating, love and marriage. She had not started dating until she was 21 and she feels no pressure to get married as long as she is happy alone. I believe she thinks that people can start dating whenever they want because she said people start dating around 10 or 11, but she did not seem upset that she did not start dating until age 21. 

On the other hand, Emma and Martin do not get pressured by their parents to get married because they are already in relationships. They both thought marriage was important because it means that the relationship will last, and Martin thought that a main reason he would get married would be to make his parents happy. They both found their relationships on their own without arrangements from their families.

The 20 year old Ms. Yang's parents do not pressure her to get married for a couple of reasons. First, she is still young and has around two or three years before a lot people in Xizhou get married. Also, she is already in a relationship. Finally, she has an older sister who is married. The 23 year old Ms. Yang does not get pressured by her parents to get married yet because she is in a relationship; however, her parents still want her to get married. They think marriage is very important, especially because she does not have any siblings. Also, this is her lunar year, so her parents want her to get married this year. 

Overall, the amount of pressure parents give their children to get married is mostly circumstantial. When kids are in relationships, their parents do not stress them out too much; however, make it clear that they want their children to get married and pressure the children a little. Also, if someone has an older sibling who is in a relationship or married, his or her parents will not pressure them too much to get married. This makes it clear to me that marriage is important to parents to make sure they have someone to care for them when they are older. Finally, in ethnic minorities such as the Bai, people get married earlier, such as 22 or 23 and possibly younger. This ties into a bit of the research I did before arriving in Xizhou. I learned about shèng nǚ, which is women over the age of 25. When you take the fact that a lot of these people are of ethnic minorities, the age of 23 for a women to be married makes a lot of sense.

Is marriage thought of as a necessity? If so, what influenced people to make them believe that marriage is important?

The importance of marriage depends on lessons taught by families and friends. 

When talking to Xiao Shuang, she said that she did not believe that marriage is important as long as one is happy on his or her own. Her parents never pressured her to date or get married; in fact, she did not start dating until last year, when she was 21. She does not think marriage is a necessary part of life and she believes that she may or may not get married based on the circumstances.

Martin and Ms. Yang share the opinion that marriage itself is not important to them, but it pleases their parents. After asking Martin if he thought marriage was important, he said that he does not think his relationship with his girlfriend would not change because of marriage, but they would get married because it is important to both of their families. Martin does not think marriage itself and wedding ceremonies are very important, but he thinks that the commitment and responsibility that marriage represents is. Ms. Yang (23) said that her parents think marriage is very important. Her parents think that marriage Ms. Yang’s getting married is very important because she is an only child. Ms. Yang’s parents want her to get married this year because it is the year of the dog, her lunar year.

Then there are Emma and Ms. Yang’s perspectives. Emma thinks that marriage is important because it ensures someone to keep her company when she gets older. She thinks that she will get married eventually. Ms. Yang (20) says that marriage is important even though her parents do not pressure her to get married. She thinks that getting married is important because it means that she would have someone to protect her. 

How have young adult's perspective on marriage and dating been impacted by their parents, and how would they want to impact their children's perspectives?

Young adult's perspectives on love, dating, and marriage have been heavily influenced by their parents, causing them to want to similarly impact their children's perspectives. From my field work, I have found that most of the time people want to pass on the same messages and knowledge that their parents passed on to them. 

For example, when Ms. Yang from the Ba Xi cafe was growing up, her parents never pressured her to get married because they wanted her to find the right person. Now, if she has kids she would want them to know that they should not worry about marriage because they should first fall in love and then think about getting married. On the other end of the spectrum is Ms. Yang from Happy Embroidery. She believes that marriage is very important and thinks of it as a responsibility. She said that she would give her kids guidance about when to start thinking about marriage. 

However, most people were never told lessons about love, dating, and marriage. Almost everyone that I have talked to said that they learned from examples set by family and friends. Most people seem to have learned about love and marriage through unspoken social norms instead of lectures from parents. Instead of talking, most parents set the example they want their children to follow. 

What are the current traditions and customs surrounding love and marriage in Xizhou and how have traditions from previous generations impacted them?

The amount of how traditional a wedding is all depends on the parent's teachings and ideas that they passed on to their children. One tradition is the groom going to the bride's home and asking her to marry him and then giving the bride's family money and singing, dancing, and bowing to the bride's parents. Another is that the second day after the wedding, the bride is not allowed to touch the ground with her feet so the groom carries her everywhere. One more tradition involving feet is when the bride's shoes are hidden and the groom has to find them and put them on the bride. Some weddings last three days because the first is for preparations, the second day is when the bride goes to the grooms house, on the third day the bride and groom go to the brides house. 

There are a lot of traditions that people do not include in their wedding based on how strict their views on love and marriage are. If someone has grown up in a family with a lot of rules surrounding marriage, they might include a lot of traditions in their wedding; however, if someone grew up in a family that did not have very strict views on love and marriage, their wedding might have less traditions. 

Sources:

  1.  Y_, Risa. Inquiry Project: Marriages in Xizhou, www.sasmicrocampus.org/content/final-product-reporting-and-reflecting-202. Accessed January 25, 2018 
  2. The Price of Marriage in China, The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/business/in-a-changing-china-new-matchmaking-.... Accessed January 25, 2018
  3. China's marriage rate is plummeting - and it's because of gender equality, The Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-conversation-global/chinas-marriage-r.... accessed January 27, 2018
  4. Big in China: Over-the-top Marriage Proposals, the Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/03/big-in-china/426831/ Accessed February 1, 2018
  5. SK-II: Marriage Market Takeover, SK-II. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irfd74z52Cw Accessed February 1, 2018
  6. The Tower of Five Glories, Charles Patrick Fitzgerald 
  7. Xiao Shuang from The Linden Centre. Personal interviews conducted by Lily Heald, 14 March 2018 and 16 March 2018
  8. Emma from The Linden Centre. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 14 March 2018 and 22 March 2018
  9. Martin from The Linden Centre. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 15 March 2018 and 22 March 2018
  10. Couple from Beijing. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 19 March 2018
  11. Couple from Inner Mongolia. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 19 March 2018
  12. Ms. Yang from Sifang Jie. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 20 March 2018
  13. Ms. Yang from Sifang Jie. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 20 March 2018
  14. Ms. Yang from Happy Embroidery. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 21 March 2018
  15. Ms. Duan from Happy Embroidery. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 21 March 2018
  16. Mr. Yun from Happy Embroidery. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 21 March 2018
  17. Ms. Yang from Ba Xi cafe. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 21 March 2018
  18. Ms. Li from the wedding photo shop. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 26 March 2018
  19. Ms. Yang from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 27 March 2018
  20. Ms. Ying from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 27 March 2018
  21. Ms. Yang from the store across the street from Shang Jie Shi Jie Tao. Personal interview conducted by Lily Heald, 27 March 2018

Comments

Ages?

Lily, your inquiry project is very interesting. From your interviews, a question that I had was how old your interviewees were. It seems to me that age influences opinion on love and marriage quite powerfully. Hard to say if that impacts what you're doing or not.

Keep having a good time in Xizhou!

Mr. McSwiney

I was thirteen years old and had been living in Shanghai for five years when I went to Xizhou for Microcampus. During my time in Xizhou, I liked to make and listen to music, play soccer, write, and talk to my friends. I loved Xizhou's blue skies, delicious food, warmhearted people, and unique culture. I cannot wait to return to my home in Xizhou!