Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 6 years 2 months ago

In Phase 1, I chose my inquiry project topic and elaborated on what I plan on finding out about it and how. In Phase 3, I will research facts about my topic both before and during the trip.

Background Information (from Phase 1):

Traditional Clothing: 

  • Symbols: The four elements in Yunnan: wind, snow, flowers, moon. The camellia flower symbolizes beauty[5].
  • Color: Dark blue or white (bai). White symbolizes purity, dignity and high social status[1,5].
  • Materials: hemp, velvet, and cotton[2].
  • Some women (mostly elderly) in XiZhou still wear traditional Bai clothing in their everyday lives, although men do not, because they are less traditional. Also, the men often do not wear white because it will get dirty while working. Most of the younger generation of people in XiZhou never wear the traditional clothing, except during holidays, performances, and jobs. However, some clothing factories use a few components of the traditional clothing to create modern clothing[2].


Adolescent girls wear their hair braided in a single long pigtail, then coiled it at the top of the head with cerise strings and white head scarf. Married women usually make a coiffure with a topknot or coil up with the hairpins[3,4]. The head scarf that is worn on some Bai women’s heads is shaped liked a crescent. It represents a flower in the wind and the moon on a snowy evening[4].

Farmers/Market Clothing:

Women selling goods in the markets of Yunnan often wear a colorful bandana around their head that covers almost all of their hair, sometimes with a straw hat on top. Many where a very simple blue vest with a blue or white top underneath, like the traditional clothing, but some just wear regular, casual clothing like ones that we wear in Shanghai[5].

In the late 1930s, women and girls wore loose-cut trousers and coats, and sandals on market days. There were many ready-made clothes shops, including second-hand clothing stores and tailors, but often farmers buy or trade for cotton or other cloth to make their own clothes. For example, in a market in the town of Yung Pei, "farmers can exchange one tou of rice for ten Chinese feet of cotton cloth of the standard width of one foot; and this is sufficient to make a complete suit of coat and trousers." What clothes the markets sell often depended In the beginning of autumn, the markets sell quilts and warm coats, and in the summer, umbrellas made of "rain cloth", which is a kind of oil cloth, and palm fiber rain cloaks worn by farmers are sold, to protect them against the rain[6].


In the past, men wore straw sandals that grip well on the dry ground or rock when traveling. This is because they can be replaced in any village when worn out, but in wet weather they soon disintegrate. The wide straw hats with an oilcloth cover keep off most of the rain, but a felt blanket thrown over the shoulders is the only protection against the cold[6].

Tourist Literature:

The clothing of the Bai minority in Yunnan is presented in tourist literature is the traditional clothing, and usually not what they actually wear every day. However, it is presented in a way that seems like most Bai people wear traditional clothing every day. Online descriptions depict Bai women as wearing white or light blue blouses, a red sleeveless jacket, an embroidered waist cloth and shoes, and often earring and bracelets. Their clothing is ornamented with camellias[3]. In Dali, married women wear their hair in a ponytail, or wear headdresses that show the four famous scenes of Dali: the flowers in Shangguan, the wind in Xiaguan, the snow on the top of the Cangshan Mountain and the moon reflected in the Erhai Lake. Married women coil up their hair and wrap it with black or embroidered cloth. Men wear white coats with black vests[7].

Information From 3-to-5's: 

Cecily Zhang: The younger generation in XiZhou usually buys their cloths from Taobao. In the morning market, many Bai ladies still wear the traditional clothing. Usually, dressing in fancy headdresses and the traditional costume is just for show. The tourists in this area tend to wear what is local from here, like bracelets and linen fabric, the popular fabric people in this area use to make like a traditional style clothes. And in other parts, in Dali, it is a very laid back place, people like to wear clothes that really comfortable and loose.

Mr. Linden: Much of the Bai culture and some of the traditions may not be so indigenous. They have become so romanticized to the point where they become more selling points or marketing points for their culture. 

Mr. Tafel: Bai women do not really wear bright colors. Perhaps a little bit, with the older women, who sometimes have a pink scarf/headpiece. People who come to town, however, buy bright scarves and bright patterns that nobody locally wears, and dress up in an exotic way. 

Mrs. Mai: Local people dress very modestly, but tourists usually stop by Dali before coming to XiZhou, so the way they dress is much more colorful and they carry cameras or sunglasses. Local people here do not wear sunglasses. Tourists also sometimes wear the flower wreath that they buy from Dali Old Town. Some people also tie their hair with colorful string, which is also from Dali. Many local people highlight their hair, or have a little bit of yellow, red, or brown hair.

Information From Local Contacts:

Frank He[8]:

Frank He is one of the workers at the Linden Centre and is helping with the construction at BaoChengFu. 

  • Before, young ladies are not open so when they talk they sometimes play with their hair, or rub their hands together. Young men sometimes put their hand behind their head when they are shy. When they laugh, they put their hands in front of their mouth to cover their teeth.
  • Traditionally, there are rules about what they have to wear. For example, Frank's mom needed to wear a headdress, which is a lot of work to put on. She also needed to always wear an apron. Also, the traditional buttons did not go straight down; they went sideways across the chest and stomach, which you could never keep open. But, now, because the Bai people live with Han people a lot, their clothing changed. Also, in the past, everyone was a farmer, but now there are more business people or other work, which also influenced their clothing. The traditional clothing was not convenient to wear to work.
  • Some old Bai ladies, all who are at least 50 years old, still wear kind of traditional clothing because they grew up in a society where everyone wore it, so it is really hard for them to change their habits. If they try to wear regular clothing, they feel uncomfortable. 
  • Some women wear a handkerchief around their head because it is their personal preference, not really because of tradition. Also, because they sweat while working, the handkerchief soaks up the sweat. It might also be like the traditional Bai headdress. 
  • Men do not wear traditional clothing because how they live. The people who work in the fields are mostly women, because a long time ago men went to war, so the women were the ones to work in the fields at home. This then became a tradition. It was not convenient for men to wear traditional clothes when at war, so they stopped wearing it. After the war, the men started to do business in other places, so they did not want to wear the traditional clothing and seem strange. The younger generation usually wears casual clothing. 
  • The younger generation just buys their clothes online or in stores, but some older people still make their own clothes, because some of the clothes they want to wear you cannot buy anymore. The clothes that they want to buy is not good business because no one buys it anymore. Mostly in the old times, people made their own clothes. 
  • Tourism has influenced the everyday clothing in XiZhou a lot. People from many different places, so people wanted to try new clothes, and did not want to always wear the traditional clothes. 

Mr. Du[9]:

Mr. Du is one of the XiZhou Baba makers in SiFangJie . 

  • People started to not wear the traditional clothes after 1958, during Mao's "Liberation". XiZhou was much more developed than other places, and was called "Little Shanghai". 
  • People used to sew all, if not most, of their own things, but now it is more convenient to just buy it. 
  • Women used to have to wear the traditional headdress with the four big scenes of Dali, so now they wear a simplified version, which is the scarf/handkerchief around their head. Now, traditional Bai clothing is very expensive, so they do not wear it. Also, the traditional clothes had to be washed by hand and became dirty easily, which was also not convenient. 
  • There is not much difference between the clothing that tourists wear and clothing that local Bai people wear. You can only tell the difference between them by their accents. 
  • Ladies used to be very conservative and were not even allowed to show their ankles. 
  • Before, women and their families used to prepare by hand intricate embroideries on pillows, shoes, sheets, and various other things when they got married as their dowry. They do not do it anymore because it is not convenient. 

Ms. Duan[10]:

Ms. Duan is a member of the DongJing Music Band. 

  • The traditional clothes for men had buttons that went all the way down to their shoes, which is very inconvenient for people today. It is better for them to just buy clothes elsewhere and wear that. It is also much simpler just to make pants by taking a piece of cloth, cutting it down the middle, and sewing it together. 
  • When Ms. Duan performs in the music band, she just wears the traditional Bai clothes. The clothes that she actually wears everyday is very random, just what is most convenient and what is most comfortable. 
  • Basically the only difference between locals and tourists is their accents and how they talk. There is not much difference in clothes. 

Ms. Zhao[11]:

Ms. Zhao is one of the ticket sellers in the Yan Family Museum in SiFangJie. 

  • Many old women in Zhou Cheng or smaller villages near the sea still wear the traditional clothing. Some of them still wear the large traditional Bai headdress because they are used to it. When they take it off, their head hurts. 
  • People nowadays do not wear the traditional clothes because it is inconvenient. They usually only wear it during holidays and festivals. 
  • People started to not wear the traditional clothes when they started to be more immersed in Han culture, when Ms. Zhao was very small, about 20-30 years ago. 
  • Some men do still wear traditional clothes, but very few. The traditional clothing for men is much simpler that the clothing for women, and much more convenient. They only need to wear a vest and a majia.
  • Some older people in ZhouCheng still make their own clothes because they have lots of free time, but most people do not because it takes too much time and is too complicated. 
  • There is not much difference between tourists' clothing and local clothing. 

Mr. Min and Ms. Mi[12][13]:

Mr. Min and Ms. Mi are the owners of a few clothing stories in or near SiFangJie that sell colorful tie-dyed cloths and colorful clothes. 

  • The most popular clothes are the tie-dyed scarves and cloth and the colorful shawls. 
  • He sells clothes to both tourists and locals (mostly younger people), although mostly to tourists. The tourists buy more special and more colorful clothes. 
  • Locals sometimes buy tie-dyed cloth to use as a tablecloth.
  • One of the tie-dyed clothes depicts Bai ladies wearing somewhat traditional Bai clothing. They are Erhai ladies. Before, they did wear these kinds of clothes, but now they do not. The cloth has a picture of them because it appeals to tourists more so they will buy it. 

Mr. Li[14]:

Mr. Li is a popular hairdresser in an alleyway right next to SiFangJie. 

  • Many local men cut their sideburns rather short and leave hair at the top long. 
  • Local women, mostly students, like to have shorter hair. Adult women also like to curl their hair and many get red highlights or dye their hair. Very few men get highlights. 
  • Many women who are 18-25 years old like to dye their hair yellow, green, and many other colors. Older women, 30+ years old, like to dye their hair red. 
  • Not many tourists come to his shop, and if they do, it is usually just to wash their hair. Tourists also like to braid colorful strings in their hair. Locals sometimes do it, but only during holidays or festivals.

Mrs. Yang[15]:

Mrs. Yang is a 40-50 year old woman who sells tie-dyed scarves, clothes, and various other items right outside SiFangJie. 

  • Business is not that good, but when she does sell something, it is mostly to tourists. 
  • She wears the traditional clothing because she is used to it.
  • She makes her own clothes and tried to teach her children, but they like to buy clothes. The younger generation only wears the traditional costume during holidays or celebrations. 

Ms. Wu and Mrs. Wang[16][17]:

Ms. Wu and Mrs. Wang are tourists that are traveling through XiZhou. 

  • They expected that most Bai people wore the traditional clothes every day, such as the headdresses and the traditional white pants. Mrs. Wang thought this because of the TV shows she watched regarding the Bai people. 
  • They realized that most Bai people actually wear regular clothes just like the Han people. However, some older women still wear traditional clothes, such as the headdress and colorful decorative belts. 
  • They wear traditional Bai clothing because they wanted to fit in the the Bai culture.

Ms. Gao[18]:

Ms. Gao is a restaurant owner in SiFangJie.

  • People do not wear the traditional costume except during festivals. Most people who wear the traditional clothing live in ZhouCheng or near the sea, who are 45+ years old, because they are used to it. 
  • Young people do not wear the traditional clothing because it is not as comfortable and they want to pursue fashion. Also, it is not convenient. 
  • Men's traditional clothes are much simpler, so sometimes when they wear it, it is just a vest. Also, men do not wear traditional clothes because many of them go outside of XiZhou to work. 

Yang ZhiLiu[19]:

Mrs. Yang is an old woman who sells a variety of traditional Bai accessories in the morning market. 

  • She wears traditional clothes because she wants to follow the tradition. 
  • Young people do not wear it because they are shy and want to dress in style. They only wear it during festivals.
  • Some men think that the traditional clothes are too hot, so they do not want to wear it. 
  • Women used to put strips of ornamental decorations on their chest, the end of their sleeves, the bottom of their skirts. Some young women wear it. 

Mr. Yin[20]:

Mr. Yin is one of the owners of the cheese factory, which sells both cheese and colorful tie-dyed cloths and traditional accessories.

  • The traditional Bai headdress and the grass shoes are bought mostly by the more curious tourists. In the past, before the 1980s, people made and used the grass shoes themselves. Today, only local women who are 70+ years old make them. 
  • Local people buy smaller and more useful things, such as bags and wallets. 
  • People generally stopped wearing traditional clothing during the 1990s. 
  • People working do not wear jewelry, because it gets in the way. Tourists generally wear more jewelry and bright clothes than locals. Local laborers wear more dirty and shabby clothes, because they do not want to get their prettier and newer clothes dirty. 
  • The blue color of the traditional tie-dye has no special meaning; its just the color that is made from the local indigo plants. 

Ms. He[21]:

Ms. He is Frank He's sister, and she sells colorful shawls and traditional Bai clothing between BaoChengFu and SiFangJie.

  • Tourists buy more of the Bai "traditional" clothes, but there is not really a trend between what they like to buy. Both tourists and locals just buy what they like. 

Ms. Zhao and Ms. Lin[22][23]:

Ms. Zhao and Ms. Lin are tourists living in or passing through XiZhou.

  • They thought that Bai people normally wore white or traditional clothes. Ms. Lin thought that because they are minority, they should be confident with their traditional clothes and wear it. She also thought that they would wear it for tourists. 
  • People who they saw actually wearing traditional clothes were in the new "ancient town", performers, and older people. However, Ms. Lin was somewhat disappointed that the only traditional thing that the older Bai people wore was the headdress, although she could understand that they would not want to wear it because it is inconvenient and complicated. 
  • They now realize that normal Bai people do not wear traditional clothes at all, but actually wear clothes like Han people wear.

Jie Yang[24]:

Mr. Yang is the owner of the Golden Flower, a popular restaurant in SiFangJie. 

  • Before, people wore traditional clothes. But after Mao's "Liberation", people did not have to wear the traditional clothes, and because it was very hot and inconvenient, most people stopped wearing it. They only still wear it during festivals and celebrations. 
  • Before Mao's "Liberation", people were really poor. The weather was also much better, but as the weather changed, the people changed too. 
  • The only people who still wear traditional clothing are performers, old ladies, and people in ZhouCheng (although young people do not wear it). 
  • People used to wear bandanas around their heads to protect their skin and hair from the sun. 
  • People in ZhouCheng may have been paid by the government to wear traditional clothes and increase tourism. 
  • People in XiZhou like to wear long and light clothes. 

Ms. Yang[25]:

Ms. Yang is one of the performers who wear traditional Bai clothing in XiYunJu, a popular tourist destination.

  • She is a local person. People who usually come to XiYunJu are both domestic and foreign tourists. 
  • Tourists wear bright, wind-proof and water-proof coats. Locals do not wear these. 
  • People in ZhouCheng are some of the only people who still wear traditional clothing. She is not sure when people stopped wearing traditional clothes. 
  • Traditional clothes for men is very simple; some men just wear tie-dyed vest. 
  • Younger people who perform wearing traditional clothes wear more white and brighter colors, such as red, light blue, and pink. Older people wear darker, duller, and more simple traditional clothes. 

Mr. Yu, Ms. Jian, Ms. Shu, Ms. Liu, and Ms. Sun[26][27][28][29][30]:

Mr. Yu, Ms. Jian, Ms. Shu, Ms. Liu, and Ms. Sun are tourists who I met near BaoChengFu or in SiFangJie.

  • Mr. Yu just came from Dali a approximately 10 minutes ago, and is passing through XiZhou to go to Shuanglang. He thought that people in XiZhou normally wore traditional Bai clothing. 
  • Ms. Jian arrived this morning. She came here because it is very quiet and peaceful, unlike Dali which is bustling with tourists. She knew that people in XiZhou did not wear traditional Bai clothing because she came here ten years ago and also knows that XiZhou is growing economically. 
  • Ms. Shu came from GuangDong, and has been in XiZhou for barely two hours. She heard that there was a lot of old architecture in XiZhou, so she decided to come here. She knew that people here did not wear traditional clothes every day.
  • Ms. Liu arrived in XiZhou this afternoon, and came here because she just came from Dali and her tour guide told her about XiZhou. She likes XiZhou because it is very pretty and quiet. She thought that people wore traditional clothes every day because she watched TV that showed Bai people wearing traditional clothes. 
  • Ms. Sun came to XiZhou six days ago for work and for travel. She thought that people normally wore traditional clothes because she researched about XiZhou and the Bai people on Baidu. 

Mrs. Yang[31]:

Mrs. Yang is a old local farmer who I met on the street near BaoChengFu.

  • Mrs. Yang is 70 years old and wear traditional clothes because she needs to work in the fields and it feels more comfortable. 
  • Her children do not wear traditional clothes because they do not work in the fields with her. They work in XiaGuan, so they need to wear casual clothes. 


This person was not willing to share her name, but she makes small ornamental children's shoes in a courtyard near SiFangJie.

  • She learned how to make the shoes from her sister-in-law. All older Bai women need to learn how to sew, but children don't. Younger people don't like sewing and don't have enough time or patience. When she was small, she did not make these shoes because she needed to work in the fields and earn more money. 
  • She makes these shoes now because she needs to exercise her hands and her mind. 
  • Wholesalers buy the shoes from her and they sell it mostly to tourists in Lijiang, Xiaguan, and Kunming. 

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):

1. Why do men not wear traditional clothing everyday like some elderly women?

The traditional clothes for men had buttons that went all the way down to their shoes, which was very inconvenient. It is also not convenient for men to wear traditional clothes when at war, so they stopped wearing it. After the war, men started doing business in other places, so they did not want to wear traditional clothing and seem strange. 

2. Are elderly women the only ones who continue to wear traditional clothing? Why?

No, other people wear traditional clothing. Very few older men still wear it, and many younger men and women wear the traditional clothes everyday for their jobs in the tourism industry. 

3. What do the younger generation in XiZhou wear every day?

The younger generation wears regular, casual clothes. However, they do not wear much jewelry, because it gets in the way when working. Also, manual laborers wear shabbier, dirtier clothes. Local people also do not wear sunglasses. 

4. What do most female farmers wear colorful bandanas around their head?

Some women wear a handkerchief around their head because it is their personal preference, and it is helpful to keep their hair and sweat out of their face, and protect their skin and hair from the sun. For older women, this is a simplified version of the traditional complicated headdress. 

5. How does what tourists think Bai people wear everyday differ from reality?

Before actually coming to XiZhou, tourists might think, incorrectly, from the TV shows, movies, or advertisements, that everybody in XiZhou wears traditional clothes every day. But, after coming to XiZhou and seeing the people here for a few days, they soon realize that people actually dress very similarly to themselves. 

6. How many people make their own everyday clothes today? 

Only older women or men make their own traditional clothes, because not many shops still make it because it is bad business. 

7. Where do most people get their clothing?

Most people buy their clothes from the local stores or on Taobao.

8. What do tourists buy in XiZhou?

Tourists like to buy what they think is "local": colorful tie-dyed shawls and scarves, gaudy bracelets and jewelry, colorful strings braided in their hair, and Bai headdresses or grass shoes. 

9. How has tourism influenced everyday clothing for the people in XiZhou? 

People in ZhouCheng may have been paid by the government to wear traditional clothes and attract more tourists. Also, many younger people are in the tourism industry wear colorful traditional Bai minority clothes to perform to tourists. 

10. How has everyday clothing changed over the past century?

People started to not wear traditional clothes around 1958, after Mao's "Liberation". They needed to wear traditional clothes before that, but afterwards, they became more connected with other places, and wanted to wear other people's clothes, which were more comfortable and convenient. 

I will know when I am done researching and ready to move to Phase 4 when I come up with a main topic and three sub-topics and feel that I have enough information to support my sub-topics. I organized all of my information into sections and I know that I have enough information because each section has quite a lot of information. In Phase 4, I will start forming an outline for my final product. 


1. Zhou, Cheng. Personal interview conducted by Vicky H., March 2013
2. Online: Madeleine V. Phase 3: Interpreting Information,, accessed 25 January 2015.
3. Online: "Bai Minority - Dali Travel." Yunnan-Roads. Asian Roads,, accessed 26 January 2015.
4. Online: Wu, Annie. "Bai Minority." China Highlights,, 20 August 2014, accessed 27 January 2015.
5. Online: David. "Bai Ethnic Minority." China Travel,, 29 December 2014, accessed 27 January 2015.
6. Fitzgerald, C.P. The Tower of Five Glories. Caravan Press, Hong Kong: 2005.
7. Online: "The Bai Nationality." Travel Yunnan China,, accessed 3 February 2015. 
8. He, Frank. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 12 2015
9. Du. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 13 2015
10. Duan, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 13 2015
11. Zhao, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 16 2015
12. Min, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 16, 18 2015
13. Mi, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 16 2015
14. Li, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 16 2015
15. Yang, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 16 2015
16. Wu, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 17 2015
17. Wang, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 17 2015
18. Gao, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 17 2015
19. Yang, ZhiLiu, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 17 2015
20. Yin, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 18 2015
21. He, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 18 2015
22. Zhao, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 19 2015
23. Lin, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 19 2015
24. Yang, Jie, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 19 2015
25. Yang, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015
26. Yu, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015
27. Jian, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015
28. Shu, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015
29. Liu, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015
30. Sun, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015 
31. Yang, Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 24 2015
32. Zhang, Cecily. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 9 2015
33. Linden, Brian. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 10 2015
34. Tafel, Craig. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 10 2015
35. Mai, Haisam. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 11 2015
36. Anonymous. Personal interview conducted by Livia Z., March 25 2015


Hi! I am 13 years old and was born in Seattle, Washington state and moved to Shanghai in 5th grade. I traveled to XiZhou in March 2015 as part of the Kryptonite Group and everything- the people, the weather, the Linden Centre, the food, the overall place- was wonderful. Microcampus was an amazing experience and I learned a lot about everyday clothing in XiZhou!