Phase 0: Topic Exploration and Selection

Updated 5 years 7 months ago

    The topics that are most of my interest are "Wood Carving", "Textile Production", and Astronomy/ The Night Sky".

    I do have questions regarding some topics. If we are not very familiar with the "night sky" (the star names, etc) is it still possible for me to throughly investigate the astronomy topic?

    Many interviews with the local people would be the key for my investigation in my topic. However, as you mentioned, the topic astronomy does not need much of the local people. Therefore I could resort to my computer to help me out with the stars. The legends and history I can ask the people. That leads me to another question. Will there be internet where we are staying? If not, then before the trip, I would have to heavily investigate the topic before-hand to familiarize the important and basic knowledge I need to properly apply it to the project.

    Choosing these three topics were mainly based off of interest. Not having the chance to see a clear sky here in Shanghai, I am eager to gaze upon the night sky of Xizhou where the stars shine so bright. Not only that, but I have recently regained interest in stars, planets, and the universe after our astronomy unit in Science.

    Being more of an "art" person, I felt that the Textile Production had a good fit for me. I wanted to not only learn how to make the unique traditional items, but to learn of their history as well.

    I have seen many splendid wood carvings while at different parts of China for vacation. It amazes me how someone can, with tools and hands, create out of plain wood a piece of beautiful artwork admired by many people. How has this skill been perfected? By whom? What is its history? Why carve on doors? I have many questions to ask.

    After discussing it with Mr.Tafel, I decided that my final topic will be Wood Carving. As a group, we would be able to experience and learn some embroidery and textile production, as well as looking at the stars every night. However, we would not be experiencing wood carving as a group. My choice of Wood carving therefore allows me to experience all three of what I am interested in.


    Wood Carving had my attention the minute I saw this topic. Just admiring the carvings are not enough for me. Having more interest in art, I want to learn how to carve wood myself. But, before I do that, I need to understand wood carving more as a whole. Right now, all I pretty much know is that it is both a challenging and impressive chinese cultural artwork that takes a lot of practice to fully master. And as I mentioned before, I have many questions bursting out my brain.

    There are many mysteries about wood carving waiting for me to uncover them: Wood carving's history, what were the types of wood used? Who has masted this technique? Are there any legends or myths related to wood carving? What tools you use to create this artwork? Why do people make them? How long does it take to master this skill? Who invented the skill and thought to create such beautiful crafts?


Great start, Alisa!

My first response to your inquiry topic interests is really positive.
Three very interesting areas, for sure.

For astronomy, you'll have to trust that we will be looking at the night
sky on a regular basis there. It's a personal passion of mine, so you'll
become very familiar with the night sky as a part of your daily (and
nightly) routine.

Both wood carving and textiles would be great. Nobody has chosen to do
wood carving yet, so that idea holds quite a bit of interest to me. Also,
you are already starting to think of/list questions, which is a sign that
it might be something that appeals more to you. There is an amazing
carving tradition there--I have several people I have come to know who
have done the wood carving for their entire homes. I could see you doing
some of your own carving, learning from the masters . . . Very exciting
possibilities for that one.

The textiles topic is good as well--we usually have two or three students
on each trip choose this one . . . Not quite as original as the wood
carving topic, for sure (can you sense my bias?)  : )

Hello, my name is Alisa. I am an Alumni from Group C, the Cookie Monsters. Over the course of one month, I strengthen my bond with Mr.T and Mrs. Mai, as well as my wonderful friends who accompanied me on my journey. I learned so many things, went so many places, met so many people, ate lots of delicious foods! My adventure in Xi Zhou never failed to keep me laughing. By the end of the trip, I was a wood carving master, and had a family of eighteen crazy cookie monsters, whom I shared this amazing journey with. My trip to Xi Zhou changed my way of thinking and how I live my life. I will never forget the memories I made at Xi Zhou as a member of the Cookie Monsters.