Phase 0: Getting Started: Topic Exploration and Selection
This is Phase 0, the beginning of our Inquiry Project. Here we choose our Inquiry Projects and answer a few questions from Mr. T. We are given an entire list of possible topics and descriptors, of which we pick one or a mix of two to focus on during our stay in Xizhou.
The propaganda, tea, and architecture topics are of great interest to me. In Shanghai, much of the propaganda is directed toward economic development and family planning, but there may be a wider range of topics in Xizhou. Tea has always been fascinating to me, how a simple combination of leaves and water has so many cultural implications and practices behind it. The dragon-like appearance of roofs in Chinese architecture, particularly in Yunnan, has evoked my interest in the evolution of building styles in general.
After feedback from Mr. T, I have decided to focus on the topic of architecture. Sometimes the evolution and preservation of architecture and structures can reveal more than the structure itself. Even something as small as the shape of the roof or the direction the door opens to have huge implications about culture and how the building is used. This topic is particularly important to me because I have always been captivated by the way arches and other geometric shapes, when put together, can support structures that easily weigh tons. Chinese architecture has evolved quite dramatically over the years — from the imperial courts of Chang'an to the drab, looming residential towers in modern China. Many of these changes reflect the many social changes and reforms China has experienced in history and even now, still.
I plan to see for myself how old structures are preserved, defaced, or destroyed there and what sort of symbolism is behind every element of the structure. I look forward to meeting with restorers, architects, and ordinary villagers to see what they think about what minority Bai architecture stands for and if there really is a place for it in modern China.
In this post (Phase 0), we chose our Inquiry Project topic and responded to feedback from Mr. T. In the next part, Phase 1, we will be digging deeper into our Inquiry Projects and writing down some essential questions we'll ask during our stay in Xizhou.