Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In Phase 0, I chose my topic (Local Legends/Spirits/Myths). Now, I am in Phase 1 where I will be posing big questions and gaining some knowledge regarding my topic.
In order to help make my Microcampus experience more successful, I did some research in Phase 3.
What do I already know about my topic / Where did I learn these things / What else do I want to learn about these topics?
Growing up as a Taiwanese and moving to Shanghai at a very young age exposed me to many different legends and myths throughout my childhood. In school, my elementary Chinese teachers recounted many great myths, like the ferocious beast "Nian", and the clever but brave "Monkey King". Although my knowledge about general Chinese myths is quite extensive, I do not know much about the legends native to Xizhou. Apparently, the local religion in Xizhou is quite complex, so I am quite curious if the legends are as complex as its religion. Legends and myths are mostly passed down from generation to generation, and each version is probably different from the last. I would like to ask a variety of locals to talk about a certain myth and compare each story to see if there is a difference. This experience will definitely be eye-opening and very nostalgic, which is exactly why I chose this topic.
I have some prior knowledge from reading the inquiry projects done by past students and talking to Mr. T. According to them, the local elders at Xizhou have lots of old myths and stories to tell, so I hope I will get a chance to talk to them. During one of our meetings, Mr. T told me about the mysterious ficus trees. Apparently, when the locals started cutting down trees in the mountain, they always left the ficus trees to be. Although the ficus trees were a lot closer to them, they always avoided them and went further up the mountain to collect their materials. I found this very intriguing, because what made the trees so sacred that the villagers would be willing to walk further up instead of cutting down the tree that was closer to them?
When I arrive at Xizhou, I hope to ask the villagers about their interpretation of the myths (as said above) and also to interview them about the ficus trees. I would also like to know more about their local religion, but Mr. T advised me to not go too deep, due to its complexity. It will definitely be challenging due to my Chinese not being that great, but I will still try to do the best I can.
Below is a list of 10 questions related to my topic, Local Legends/Spirits/Myths. This will serve as a "fuel" for my upcoming experience in Xizhou. The italicized words are my answers (based off of my current knowledge) to the questions. I have not done any research to answer these questions (yet), so the purpose is to provide a sense of what the answer would look like later on.
1. What makes the trees so sacred that the locals are willing to let them be instead of cutting them down?
Ficus trees are a pretty big part of Xizhou's (and other Bai Minority villages/towns) burial rituals. Also, they are a symbol of thrivingness and prosperity.
2. Are ficus trees mentioned/important in local legends/myths?
If the ficus trees are important enough for the villagers to let them be, I am sure that they will be included in some aspect.
Myths and Legends in Xizhou
3. What is the oldest myth native to Xizhou and what is it about?
I have not done much research on the specific myths/legends from Xizhou, but I know that the oldest and the most famous myth from the Bai Minority is a story called "the creation of the earth"
4. Are the myths in Xizhou similar to the ones in other places in China?
I believe that the local legends/myths are probably influenced by the traditional ones told all over China.
5. Are the legends/myths still taught in schools today?
I assume that the legends/myths are still taught in history classes or simply referenced in classes.
6. Are there any Chinese idioms that derive from the myths in Xizhou?
Many Chinese idioms are from myths and legends, so I believe that there might be some idioms inspired by the myths from Xizhou/the Bai Minority.
7. Where do we keep the myths/legends alive?
We can start incorporating them into schools (if not already), spread the stories around, etc.
8. Are the myths told in religious festivals, such as Ransaoling?
I think so, because people usually recount myths/legends during religious times.
9 Do the myths change over time?
Myths and legends are usually passed down from generation to generation, so there might be some changes/alterations to the original story.
10. Are some of the legends based off of real stories / inspired by them?
I assume that some of the legends/stories are actually real stories, but some parts may be slightly exaggerated.
I have created a set of 10 big questions in Phase 1, and now I will move onto Phase 2, finding helpful resources.