Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In Phase 0, I explored the topics and options I had for a 28 day trip in XiZhou, Yunnan and boiled down my decision to one topic. In Phase 1, I will be refining, researching, and posing questions on the embroidery in XiZhou.
What do I already know about this topic?
Embroidery is a traditional art practiced around the world by mostly women. The traditions and styles for embroidery are vastly different in each country. Even in China, the styles of embroidery vary by province or ethnicity. Culture could be expressed through art, and I believe embroidery could help me learn more about the culture in XiZhou. Most embroideries work with silk, which is a product China takes pride in. Traditional patterns and themes vary between provinces. Since my topic also incorporates photography, I also have some fundamental skills in using a DSLR and photography in general.
Where did I learn these things?
The majority of knowledge I have of this topic is a class I took in elementary. The elementary school I attended was local, and there I took an elective on cross stitching. While learning the basic skills of cross stitching, the instructor explained the Chinese culture of embroidery and explained how this was a woman's work. My other source of knowledge are the works of other like-minded Microcampus alumni. These include Ryane (G), Miranda (M), and Sabrine (N). Reading through their reflection and project in Phase 0 gave me a better idea of what I will study. My knowledge in photography is mostly gained from my dad, a photography enthusiast, and multiple photography courses over the summers.
What do I want to know about this topic?
During this 28 day trip, I plan to investigate further on the history of embroidery and how it ties to the local's daily lives. If possible, I specifically would study how the art form ties with the Bai minority. Art forms could be easily sculpted through its environment. These factors which sculpted embroidery to what it is today interest me greatly. There are a lot of aspects of embroidery I have not learned about or thought of yet, so I hope my stay in XiZhou could expand on the unique aspects of embroidery. I would also plan to enhance my photography skills since my plan is to share my learnings through photography.
To dig in further on this topic, I began my research on embroidery (which is shown in Phase 3). This helps me gain a better understanding of this topic in order for me to pose questions.
Big Questions: (See Phase 3 for details)
The following questions are in place to guide me in my learning of the embroidery in XiZhou. I plan to find these answers during my interaction with the locals in XiZhou.
1. How does the embroidery in XiZhou, specifically the Bai minority embroidery, differ from the rest of China?
I think each minority would have different patterns and symbols because of geographical influence.
2. What are some of the popular patterns of embroidery in XiZhou? What do they mean?
Each minority have different patterns. A lot are with flowers and leaves. Flowers may symbolize youth or beauty, depending on the type of flower.
3. What does the future of embroidery look like? How is the tradition maintained?
I believe it would be mothers teaching their daughters. But I am interested in would their children would continue this art form in the technological age.
4. Why is this form of art so popular and important to their culture?
I believe this is because of the lengthy tradition and the things they embroider may also be close to their culture. This question is also related to question 10.
5. How does embroidery contribute to the everyday life in XiZhou?
Embroidery is used to decorate clothing and other decorations.
6. How often are the embroidered clothing worn? In what occasions?
Embroidered clothing may only be worn during important occasions such as birth, marriage, and death. I want to know why only on these occasions.
7. Why is embroidery mostly practiced by women of the village?
This may be because mothers and women embroider for their children or husbands. I also want to find some male embroiders and ask them why sparked their interest in this art.
8. What were some historical events that affected the style or development of embroidery? And How did it affect this art form?
I believe the Great Leap forward definitely influenced this art form by maybe restricting the accessibility to silk.
9. How has embroidery evolved over the years?
As I have learned from my background research, new methods, tools, and styles were introduced over the dynasties. I wish to gain more specific answers for this topic.
10. Why is embroidery still being practiced today? What kept the people of China continuing on this tradition?
Aside from tradition, I believe this also may be because of how it has deep ties to their ethnic roots. I want to find out what are these ties and why they matter so much to the locals.
Finally, here are some things I want to accomplish during my time in XiZhou. I want to find out more about the common symbolism behind their embroidery. I also wish to find what were the factors that led to the embroidery pieces we see today. As a Taiwanese American, I fail to understand why is embroidery so important and why this tradition is preserved. I hope the experience in XiZhou can clear these questions and queries for me. This information can help me build a better understanding of how art forms (not only embroidery) and traditions are created and apply them to my artistic journey in the future.
Now that I have a better understanding of my topic and understand what is ahead of me in XiZhou, I am prepared to extend on my research and find helpful resources in Phase 2 to prepare me for the trip.