Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 1 day 2 hours ago

This is Phase 3, where I will be collecting, interpreting, organizing data and facts from prior to and during the Microcampus trip. Previously, in Phase 0, I had selected my topic and looked at alumni advice. Then, in Phase 1, I referred to background knowledge and started putting forward some big questions. Recently, in Phase 2, I began searching for some helpful sources of information that can help me with my research.

Background Information (from Phase 1):

Yunnan geography: The Yunnan province is on the Southwestern corner of China that borders many countries, including Vietnam, Laos and Burma [1,7]. Yunnan is approximately 394,000 square kilometers in size and has a population around 45.7 million people [1]. The province of Yunnan is special in many ways, this includes having the largest plant diversity and being the most ethnically diverse. Due to the geographic features, Yunnan acts as the gateway from China to South East Asia, becoming the hub for some international conventions. Recently, railroad construction is taking place between Yunnan and Thailand, bringing the two countries closer and boosting the economic activities in both countries.

Yunnan economics: Yunnan is, in fact, a relatively undeveloped province in China. In 1994, more than 7 million people in Yunnan lived below the poverty line of less than an annual average income of 300 yuan per capita [2]. Most lives under a financially supported life, with the help of the central government. However, geographic location of Yunnan has countless positive impacts economic growth. The abundance of resources determines the pillar industries at Yunnan: agriculture (including tea) , tobacco, mining, and hydroelectric power [2, 3]. In general, the natural resources in Yunnan became an indispensable component in the economy.

Antiques/Collectibles/Vintage: How to identify one thing as an antique is highly debatable. Some say that an antique is any object with considerable age, valued for its aesthetic or historical significance. In antique trade, antique refers to an object more than 100 years old [4, 5]. However, some dealers use 50 years as a baseline to consider something an antique. These are actually collectibles. Collectibles are defined as valuable objects less than 100 years old [5]. Then we have vintage. Vintage originally meant the year when a specific high quality bottle of wine was produced. However, now it is used to describe, in the antique field, an object less than 25 years old [5]. Note, that the labels antiques/collectibles/vintage has no direct connection to the value of the object. The value is always determined by the demand [5]. For example, a pot from Han Dynasty (206 BC- 220 AD) might be sold at a very low price because it is not aesthetically appealing and nobody wants it.

Furniture: One of the most common type of antique is furniture. Furniture is categorized into 4 types: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Suzhou [4,14]. Beijing furniture has the most simplistic style, usually with none or very less decorative carvings. The Guangzhou category resemble western furniture, perhaps because of the influence from Canton, and . The Shanghai and Suzhou styles are comparatively more decorative, usually with elaborative wooden carvings or delicate patterns [4]. The classic furniture listed above are mainly constructed by the use of rosewood (or redwood). This sturdy material is easy to store, so furniture with a history of few centuries are ubiquitous in antique shops. Currently, furniture is often preserved by using artificial agents like paste wax. Paste wax is stable, long-lasting, and even provides protection from moisture and dust. [6]

Porcelain: Porcelain, or "china", is that of a white, vitrified, translucent ceramic, made from Kaolin clay, fired to a temperature of at least 1000 degrees celsius [4,7,8,9,13]. This delicate ornament was invented in China, perhaps as early as the seventh or eighth century AD, but advanced ci, the Chinese word used to describe porcelain, already appeared during Shang dynasty (16th - 11th century BC) near Zhengzhou, in Central China, in Henan Province. Chinese porcelain is categorized into 2 main groups: Northern porcelain and southern porcelain. The northern type were made of local clay rich in kaolin. The southern type was made mainly by porcelain stone. Jindezhen, in Jiangxi province, is famous for producing the best porcelain in China, with an unique underglaze blue and white decoration [4,8,13]. (This technique was further developed in Yunnan [7,8,13].) The difference between northern and southern porcelain is that the former is denser and compact, the latter appearing softer and more glassy [8,13]. In Yunnan, the most famous porcelain is blue-and-white, with a green glaze [1,4,8,13].

Jade: Chinese jade is a very fascinating aspect of Chinese decorative arts. The name "Jade" actually originated in Spain, it comes from the word piedra de hijada, meaning literally stones of the flank, or loin [10,11]. The source of jade used in the earliest times remains unknown, but historians know that during the Chinese Warring States period (480-221 BC), the Chinese were importing nephrite jade [11,15]. The ritual use of jade, however, can be dated back to Neolithic period. Different shaped jade were used at different times: the bi (a flat disc of jade with a hole in its centre) and cong (a hollow tube of cylindrical section enclosed by a rectangular body) were used respectively to worship Heaven and Earth [1,11]. Jade may be in many different colors, including white, green, brown, purple, red and grey. The emerald green is the most prized color of jade, often known as imperial green [4,11,15].

Tea Horse Road (THR): The Tea Horse Road has many honors: being one of the highest and precipitous roads, and being the longest trade route in the world [12]. The Tea Horse Trail originated from the 'tea-horse trade markets', the traditional 'tea-for-horse' between Han and Tibetan people. It all began with Tibetan interest in tea in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) [4,12]. By the Song Dynasty, some places like Sichuan (another country with significant influence on China located on the trade route) had a specialized government agency supervising and monitoring the trade. The Tea Horse Road was divided into two parts: the Yunnan-Tibet Road and the Sichuan-Tibet Road. The former is one I am investigating upon. This trade route formed during the 6th century, boosting the local economy and enriching the culture of western China. The Tea Horse Road has been deserted for decades, since China developed railroads that provided efficient trade, but the long-term effects definitely shaped Yunnan in many ways [4,12]. In 2015, there was an exhibition displaying 342 antiques unearthed near the Tea Horse Road [16]. The most famous ones are all pertinent to sculptures of horses, unicorns and merchants. This shows the importance of horses, as transportation, in the past.

Information from 3-to-5's:

Information from Local Contacts:

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):


1. Microcampus site: S., Aniketh. Antiques in Xizhou,, accessed 12 January 2018.
2. Online: Yunnan Adventure Travel: Yunnan Economy, accessed 13 January 2018.
3. Online: Responsible Tourism: Yunnan Economy, accessed 13 January 2018.
4. Microcampus site: H., Griffon. Antiques that connect to the Tea Horse Road, accessed 13 January 2018.
5. Online: Antique HQ, accessed 13 January 2018.
6. Online: Furniture care tips, accessed 13 January 2018.
7. Online: Gotheborg: Yunnan blue and white, accessed 13 January 2018.
8. Online: Gotheborg: Chinese Porcelain, accessed 13 January 2018.
9. Microcampus site: S., Max. Antiques in Xizhou,, accessed 13, January 2018.
10. Online: Asian art: Old Chinese Jades: Real or Fake?, accessed 13, January 2018.
11. Online: Gotheberg: Jade, accessed 13, January 2018.
12. Online: China Highlights: The Ancient Tea Horse Road,, accessed 14, January 2018.
13. Wikipedia (used only to assess): Porcelain, accessed 14, January 2018.
14. Wikipedia (used only to assess): Chinese Furniture, accessed 14, January 2018.
15. Wikipedia (used only to assess): Chinese Jade, accessed 14, January 2018.
16. Online: English CCTV: Ancient Tea Horse Route Antiques on display in NE China,, accessed 16, January 2018.


I am Clark W. and I am super excited about my adventure in Xizhou, Yunnan. I was born in Lancaster, Pennslyvania, but spent most of my life in Shanghai. My inquiry project will be focused on Local Antique Trade/Tea Horse Trail because I am passionate and curious about the history and stories behind antiques and the trade's effects on Xizhou. I hope that I could explore China outside the "bubble" and learn to be more independent throughout this amazing experience.