Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 1 year 3 days ago

In the previous Phase 0, I have narrowed down three possible research topics into one final choice: Happiness. In Phase 1, I took that topic and posed specific questions that I would like to answer on my Microcampus journey. In Phase 3, I will be going through the research process as a whole and interpreting gathered data.

Background Information (from Phase 1): 

Happiness can be something as simple as it is complicated [1]. It includes positive feelings such as joy, contentment, pride, confidence, and gratitude. The pursuit of happiness itself comes in so many different shapes and forms, and the actual definition of this concept honestly has no correct answer. A lot of times, happiness becomes a choice. When faced with seemingly impossible obstacles, a lot of people would choose to complain and/or give up. Complaining would be a negative reaction to challenges, and would greatly decrease one's happiness. Whereas, when faced with obstacles, if someone chose a positive response, studies have shown that there will be an increase in happiness [3,5].

Happiness plays such a significant role in our lives, because as human beings, even if we do have cognitive abilities, the quality of our lives are almost entirely dependent on our emotions [2]. Being happy has extremely great advantages and benefits. These include people becoming more and more compassionate and feeling healthier both physically and emotionally. People are able to become more creative, witty, and energetic. In a way, being in such a happy state of mind can help people become more successful in their lives, whether it be financially or personally [3]

Many factors can contribute to one's happiness, such as health, communication, connection, environment, value, mindset, and work. Health, for example, has a definite correlation to happiness. Healthier people are happier and happier people are healthier. Specific research has also shown that people who do more physical exercise and pay more attention to their personal health, are almost always happier than those who are generally lazier [5]. Surprisingly enough, genetics do play a rather major role in our happiness, as we are all born with a "happiness set point" -a potential/baseline which we are bound to return to [5]. While genetics takes up 50% of "what contributes to our happiness", our living circumstances only takes up about 10%. Furthermore, the last 40% is based on the choices we make in our everyday lives [6]. In connection to choices, discoveries have shown that happiness is not something we are able to create; we are only able to "create" happiness through the specific paths we take. This is proven to be extremely important because small actions really do help our happiness grow much quicker [7]

Narrowing down to China, in ancient times people viewed happiness as a word compressed of longevity, prosperity, health, peace, virtue, and comfortable death. As time past a little, the Chinese added "luck, fortune, obstacle-free" to their definition. Nowadays, in Chinese culture, simplicity is usually their view. They are after "the simple life": a life with no complexity and complications [8].

Information From 3-5s:

For 3-5s I have only received contact members from the teachers, as happiness is a very subjective topic for there to be much background information on it. 

Information From Local Contacts: 

Mr.He (3/13/19)

Mr.He is the owner of his very own painting shop here in Xizhou. He was born and raised here and so he is no doubt a local in this village. Today, I had the opportunity to go and meet him with Ms.Wang, and I had a wonderful conversation with him. He shared his very own insights on his perspective of happiness. 

  • He feels happiest when he knows that he is pursuing something he is passionate about 
  • Believes that if you give up, you become the greatest obstacle standing between you and achieving happiness
  • At younger ages, people may think that "grades, compliments, money, new clothing" is happiness ---- As you grow up, you focus more on spirituality
  • People nowadays misunderstand the concept of happiness and are way too materialistic
  • The government should care more about the "dreams" of their citizens 
  • A person's mindset is the biggest contributing factor to happiness
  • Chinese people think that the word "happiness" is a joke (something funny to them)
  • There are both positive and negative mindsets 

Mrs.Zhao (3/13/19)

Ms.Zhao was a hugely recommended contact during my 3-5s and so I really looked forward to talking to her. Ms.Zhao is the restaurant owner of Old Town Snacks right here in Xizhou. I paid a visit to her today, and I had the chance to talk to her about her story and her opinions. She shared some new and different thoughts that I had not really considered before. 

  • Family contributes a lot to happiness --- if her children and parents live a happy life, then so does she
  • Work also plays a huge role: it is stable, and the feeling of contentment when she is doing something productive)
  • There is definitely a lot of pressure when it comes to the renting fee of her restaurant --- not able to keep her job, not being able to provide the best for her children 
  • Education is extremely important to give people the opportunity to pursue happiness. 
  • True friends that stick by you also make people feel joy and contentment 
  • Being "uncultured" or "not having enough knowledge" is the biggest obstacle in her way of "achieving" happiness
  • Money cannot buy you happiness, but it is the foundation for everything
  • Money brings out the most in human nature --- people think more money is more happiness and so when they are not happy, they think it is because they do not have enough money
  • Rich people have their worries, and poor people have theirs. 

Mr.Zhang (3/14/19)

Mr.Zhang is a bicycle fixer working in the alleyway near Si Fang Jie. Mr.Zhang is by far one of the most energetic and talkative people I have met here in Xizhou. His zestiness really makes me enjoy my conversations with him. After a half hour talk with him, he gave me some really interesting philosophical insights. 

  • The satisfaction of overcoming obstacles brings him happiness
  • World peace is something that makes him smile 
  • "To live in the moment" 
  • Do not overthink about "achieving happiness" in life
  • A person's mindset and attitude matters
  • "To be a lifelong learner" 
  • LIfe is not about the money you earn
  • Water = happiness = something that gives life to our world = a cycle that comes back to life in different forms = life itself 
  • Knowledge is what sets others apart from each other 
  • We do not live in a fair society, so it is extremely difficult for everyone to pursue happiness at the same starting line 

Mr.He (3/15/19)

Mr.He is one of the two security guards here in Yang Zhuo Ran. He is a pretty conservative person in comparison to my past interview contacts, and so It took some time to really get him open up. But after he did, he gave me some of his own ideas on "happiness". 

  • The health of his family (loved one, children, grandchildren) 
  • Health insurance and retirement fees allow him to better pursue his happiness
  • He does not feel a lot of pressure in his life 
  • He just wants to enjoy each day as his routine is already set 
  • Money is the foundation of everything 

Ms.Alin (3/15/19)

Ms.Alin is in charge of the hospitality department for the Linden Centre. She stopped by this afternoon with one of her two daughters and I took this opportunity to have a chat with her. Similar to Mr.He, she is pretty conservative and shy about opening up. But she still gave me some helpful insights on my topic. 

  • She is a mother of two and so being around her children makes her day
  • She has a positive mindset and she believes that mindsets make a difference when it comes to pursuing happiness
  • She believes that money is of great importance happiness wise (more money = less pressure = more satisfaction when getting a result from work)
  • She enjoys listening to the stories of the hotel guests and people around (this gives her joy)
  • Her happiness is simple and it comes from the little details in her life (receiving a mothers day card)
  • When her hard work pays off and she gets confirmation from others for it 

Mr.Huang (3/18/19)

Mr.Huang is an imam at the mosque here in Xizhou. Due to some slight delay, I did not have enough time to discuss with him all of my questions; however, during our short conversation, Mr.Huang was extremely open to sharing his perspective and thoughts on "happiness" and the pursuit of it. I can not wait for another day when I can continue our discussion.

  • There is a huge difference between each person's definition of happiness
  • In our society today.... happiness = wealth = knowledge = materialistic items 
  • His Islamic beliefs and his passion for it makes him feel content 
  • Happiest when providing guidance to others 
  • "To have a passion and a purpose in life"
  • "To contribute something into society and world"
  • Money is still the foundation of life, but it is not the final goal
  • Money works both ways, positive and negative
  • There has to be a boundary as to what money can do for us
  • A person's mindset has a huge impact on their happiness 
  • "Do not give up in the face of an obstacle" 
  • People with different knowledge tend to walk different paths 
  • Different opinions = arguments = the decrease in happiness
  • Misunderstanding and the lack of communication is the biggest obstacle in our way of pursuing happiness 
  • Happiness to Mr.Huang revolves around guidance, kindness, and emotion 

Mr.Yang (3/19/19)

Mr.Yang is the owner of an antique dealer shop in Si Fang Jie. He is 50 years old and he was born and raised here in Xizhou. My conversation with Mr.Yang was great and he was so open and kind about sharing his thoughts and perspectives. After our discussion, Mr.Yang also gave me a book about Xizhou as a gift, and so it was extremely generous of him. Below I have listed the main points that he has touched upon: 

  • His passion for finding and collecting antiques contributes to his happiness
  • Healthy family = stable job = children that listen = support from friends = happy life 
  • When people enjoy the things (antiques) that he enjoys
  • Sharing his passion for antiques 
  • As long as you are doing what you are supposed to do, you will have a happy life 
  • Communication between family and friends are key
  • People should be more open and willing to communicate
  • Materialistic things are important, just not as much as family 
  • Money = 50% positive impact 50% negative impact (you need money to buy antiques)
  • As kid happiness equaled new clothing or new shoes or laughing around with friends
  • Now people are more distant from their friends and family members 

Mr.Zhang (3/20/19)

Mr.Zhang is a 63-year-old antique dealer here in Xizhou. He is not from Xizhou but from Er Yuan. Mr.Zhang is a very positive person and we should most definitely learn from his outlook on life. During our conversation, he strongly emphasized the importance of a person's mindset. 

  • No matter what obstacle stands in your way, as long as you have a positive mindset, you can get through anything 
  • Life is not about money it is about the lifestyle 
  • "Too much money is never a good thing"
  • Just do your job and live your life 
  • Never compare yourself with others
  • There has to be a balanced mindset 
  • Appreciate what we have now (gratitude)
  • His religion has impacted his decisions quite a bit 
  • As long as he tried and as long as he has worked hard, he does not care about the results 

Ms.Li (3/21/19)

Ms.Li works at Linden Centre as a front desk manager. She is 27 years old coming from Xia Guan. I had a great conversation with her today, and I have listed the points she talked about below: 

  • Every single person has a different perspective on "happiness"
  • You can separate happiness into two main factors --- lifestyle and work
  • Lifestyle: Stable job, no need to worry about money, when your family is beside you
  • Work: When you get a result from your hard work/ when you are doing something you are passionate about 
  • Yes money can buy person happiness, but it is more so 50% positive 50% negative 
  • Money is important but it is not everything 
  • However money is the foundation, and only with the foundation can you move on to "happiness"
  • You need a higher salary and money in order to pursue the things you like
  • Happiness also revolves around spirituality = family, education, lifestyle, friends
  • The places you go and the stories you hear make a huge impact on your mindset
  • Your definition of "happiness" determines whether or not you can reach your happiness level  
  • The environment you grow up in makes a huge impact on your perceived definition 
  • Positivity and gratitude is key 

Mr.Yang (3/25/19)

Mr.Yang is one of the best musicians here in Xizhou, and even though he is already in his 70s, his love and passion for music makes his heart youthful and beautiful. I had an amazing conversation with him today and he was also kind enough to allow me to experience his happiness, as I learned how to play a few chords on the 三弦 (san xian - a tradition Chinese three-stringed instrument). 

  • Music is his passion and the love of his life and it is music that brings him the greatest joy
  • People should never care about the obstacles (rumors, insults, names) that are standing in your way if you truly love what you are doing 
  • His surroundings and the environment does not matter to him as long as he is playing music 
  • Music is his way of expressing himself - whether it is with joy or sadness = this expressive method allows him to feel content 
  • “坚持就是胜利” = Jian chi jiu shi sheng li = perseverance is victory 
  • We must create and build our very own mindsets 
  • In order to have a good mindset, we must learn from others
  • The people you surround yourself with matters - learn from them 
  • Happiness = kindness = positivity = staying true to yourself 

Surveying Others 

As a little survey, I went around during my extra inquiry project time to ask some people what color they believe happiness is. Here are the answers I received: 

  • "Blue because growing up the sky was always so blue in Xizhou." - It is the color of home
  • "Red because it symbolizes luckiness and culture" - It is the color of the holidays
  • "Purple because it is my favorite color" -happiness is the color that brings you the most joy
  • "Pink because it is my favorite color" -happiness is the color that brings you the most joy
  • "Blue because it reminds me of a warm and fuzzy day" -the color that brings you the most warmth
  • "Yellow because at school, I am in gold" -the color my team belongs to (Sejin)
  • "Green and blue because green represents life and blue represents freedom." -the symbolism behind colors (Emilly)
  • "Orange because that is my country's national color." -the color and pride of home (Pepijn)
  • "Happiness can be any color." -Happiness is a subjective concept, the color does not matter as long you are happy (Erin)
  • "Red because it is a warm color." -The color of warmth (Audrey)

Answers to Previous Questions (from Phase 1):

1. When do people feel happiest?

After many conversations with the villager here in Xizhou, I have been able to narrow the answer to this question into three main concepts. First one is the fact that people often find themselves happiest when they are with their family or friends. It never matters what they are doing as long as they are doing it with the people they love. The second concept is the fact that people feel happiest pursuing the things they are most passionate about. Lastly, from discussions, I have learned that people are also happy when they enjoy the work they do. 

2. What, most often, gets in the way of a person's happiness? How does that prevent someone from being happy?

Most often, a person's mindset is the biggest obstacle in the way of them achieving happiness. If a person has a regularly pessimistic outlook towards life, and it is easy for them to give up when they feel like a problem has occurred then this mindset becomes the worst thing standing in your way. No event or challenge gets in your way of achieving happiness, it is your very own mindset and how you choose to approach your problems that make the obstacle so challenging. 

3. How does a person's definition of happiness change throughout their lifetime?

The answers that I received for this question was extremely similar to my predicted answer. At younger ages, materialistic items (new clothing, new shoes) are what brings people the most joy; however, this joy is not happiness. As people grow older, they soon realize that sometimes true happiness has to be acquired through spiritual growth and a kind heart. People are less attracted to items, and more so to "reading" or "hanging out with my family". 

4. Is "being happy" the final goal that people want to achieve? 

Yes. Although many people start off with earning money and becoming successful in life financially, this process is only to create a foundation. This foundation later becomes the one thing that can aid us in our journey to pursue our dreams, and when we have the opportunity to pursue our dreams we reach our level of happiness. 

5. Can money buy you happiness?

As I asked this question, I received almost the same answer. Yes and no. Money is something that is 50% positive and 50% negative. Money is a factor that can go both ways: good or bad. Many people believe that money is a necessity, because, without it, you cannot survive in our world today; however, money can not always help you thrive. Without money, we lose the very ability to for example, "buy that piano so I can pursue my music dream" or to "publish this novel because I am passionate about writing". Yet you can never pay someone to make you the best piano player on earth and you can never pay someone to write your novel. That, like happiness, must be acquired through oneself. 

6. How does the society we live in restrict a person's ability to achieve their highest "happiness potential"?

Pressure. There is a lot of pressure in our world today, and this pressure often restricts us from reaching our goals. We listen to all rumors or things they say about us and so we back away and give up on the one thing that can promise us happiness. Pressures such as being a part of a family that does not support what you do, the costly price you must pay in order to ensure your company does not go out of business, or the friends that laugh at your stupid beliefs. 

7. What actions could the government take to increase their country's happiness rate?

 I have decided to cut this question out right on the first day of Phase 3 Inquiry work because when I finally got here, I realized that many of the villager's lives were surrounded by the Xizhou community, and in this town, it does not really come to mind to consider any political questions. The life they live here is a simple kind of happiness that is not always impacted by the government. 

8. Between age groups, what differences and similarities can be found in their definition of happiness?

I also ended up cutting down this question down because I came to the conclusion that this question is, in fact, quite similar to my third question. During my conversations with the people here, many of them had already answered this question when I asked them about the development and growth of a person's definition of happiness throughout their lifetime. 

9. What is the most significant factor that contributes to the concept of happiness?

Inspired by Ms.Li, one of my contacts during fieldwork, I would say that the main contributors to happiness can be narrowed down to two factors. The first one being the lifestyle. Lifestyle is something that revolves around health, family, education, friends, environment, mindset. The next factor is work. Work is something that can motivate a person and it is the satisfaction of contributing to something or seeing the result of your hard work that fills a person with joy.  

10. Do specific environmental conditions/circumstances greatly impact one's happiness? 

For this question, my answer varied quite a lot. Some people believe that environments and conditions do not impact anyone when it comes to happiness. It is your very own mindset, belief, and attitude towards life that impacts your happiness. However, some people believe that the quality of living and your surroundings do make a huge impact. Without your basic needs met, it is difficult to move on to pursuing spiritual growth. 

In Phase 3, I have gathered all of my data and I have finished my research process. Now that I have completed this phase, I will be moving on to Phase 4. In Phase 4 I will be developing my plan for how to report my findings and to share the most important things that I learned on this journey. 


1. Hannah H. "Happiness: as Defined in Xizhou": Inquiry project. 2013, November
2. George Ortega. Thehappinessshow.comThe Importance of Happiness. April 1, 2011
3. Jeff Durham. Why is Happiness so Important? August 30, 2018
4. Sonja Lyubomirsky. What influences our Happiness the Most? May 4, 2008
5. Roko Belic, director. The Happy Movie. April 9, 2011  
6. Sage Foster and Jon Lasser. Discoverer-ProQuest, Grow Happiness. October 2017 
7. Luo Lu. Understanding Happiness: a look into Chinese folk psychology. Professional journal. February 2011.
8. Mr. He Persoonal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 13, 2019
9. Mrs.Zhao Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 13, 2019
10. Mr.Zhang Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 14, 2019
11. Ms.Alin Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 15, 2019
12. Mr.Huang Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 18, 2019
13. Mr.Yang Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z March 19, 2019
14. Mr.Zhang Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 20, 2019
15. Ms.Li Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 21, 2019
16. Mr.Yang Personal Interview conducted by Becky. Z, March 25, 2019





You are studying one of my favorite subjects. (It should be everyone's favorite subject!) I will be very interested to hear the differences between your findings in Xizhou and how they compare and contrast to Shanghai. Fascinating.

Hey! I'm Becky, and I have called SAS my "home" for around 10 years now. If there was something you had to know about me, it would be the fact that I am extremely passionate about traveling. I suppose that is one of the many reasons as to why I was so drawn to the idea of Microcampus. Now that I am actually here, I can not help but say this place has not disappointed. It is truly a beautiful experience to be able to hear the stories of the community and to truly connect with so many people.