2003 Student-Faculty Fellows: Warren Wilson College

Mentor: Dongping Han, Department of History and Political Science
Students: Sarah Cox ’04; Paul Edmonds ’04; Theo Eliezer ’05; Soren Norris ’03

Research trip to China postponed to Summer 2004 because of 2003 SARS Crisis

Abstracts of Reflections and/or Research

Dongping Han

The research trip has tremendous impact on my professional development. We did research on several rural sites, visited famous historical and cultural sites like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, summer places, and important political sites like the Red Flag Irrigation Canal in Linxian. We also visited important religious sites like Lao Mountain, in Laoshanxian, Shandong, and Dongping lake in Shandong. We also attended an international conference on the state’s role in China’s economic development. At the conference, apart from delivering a speech on a comparative study of the roles of state in economic development in China and the U.S., I also gave credit about the support we got from Freeman/ASIANetwork that made our presence at the conference possible. We interacted with scholars from different countries, and benefited from their perspective tremendously.

This research experience is very important for my professional development. My research interest is rural education. This trip deepened my understanding of Chinese politics and Chinese society. This deepened understanding will enable me to be a more effective teacher in the classroom.

Paul Edmonds
Daily Religious Observance in Rural China

It was not until visiting China that I realized what exactly it means to be an American. The fundamental rights guaranteed to us as members of a democratic society (and more importantly, the protection of and freedom to exercise those rights) are easily taken for granted. However, in a land so hopelessly bereft of political and personal freedoms as China, the value of such rights becomes achingly apparent in their absence. I understand that my observations about China are relatively pedestrian, and are colored by my dearth of knowledge regarding the fine points of modern Chinese history and politics, the limited region and capacity in which I visited China, and my inability to speak Chinese which resulted in a reliance on interpreters and their subjectivity. However, I feel that the experience provided by this trip gave me new perspectives on Chinese culture, development, and the nature of the freedom that we, as Americans, enjoy. Research Abstract: One of the aspects of field research which makes it a vibrant tool both for the academic community at large and for individual researchers is that an initial research question is to be consistently modified or re-examined during the course of the project. I set off to China with pages of interview questions, geared toward respondents of different age groups, with the idea that I would be going from house to house in various villages and speaking with local people about their experiences regarding religious belief and practice during the Great Cultural Revolution. However, when I tried to bring up the Great Cultural Revolution with respondents, either the interpreter would block the question by saying, “Many people don’t like to talk about that,” ignore my question altogether, or the respondent would respond evasively. This is not to say that I did not have productive research. I was able to learn a great deal about Chinese culture, religion, and society, both from the interviews I conducted, informal discussions with interpreters, and through personal observation. Our time in villages was an invaluable glimpse into the Chinese countryside, whose level of development and infrastructure was remarkable. Watching Chinese television, particularly advertisements, conveyed many cultural values of urban, TV-owning Chinese families with expendable incomes. I was able to visit a number of historical religious sites. My final report will necessarily rely on literature research conducted in light of the ideas gleaned from my interviews, a well as the perspectives of my diverse respondents.

Theo Eliezer
Alternative Health and Medicine, Traditions of Healing: Ancient Medical Practices in Contemporary Rural China

I somehow managed to enter the experience of traveling to China with no expectations or preconceived notions of how it should be, and because of this, I feel absolutely fulfilled in retrospect. My first impressions of Beijing combine the smell of food being cooked on the streets of the Hutongs, red paper lanterns, little white dogs that reminded me of lions, and beautiful old people exercising on their front doorsteps at four in the morning. Walking alone down winding alleys as the sun rose on my first day in China provided me with a taste of what was to be my home for two months, and a place that I would grow to treasure. Being able to view things with the critical eye of an outsider in another culture has restored my ability to step outside of my own culture to see the ways in which we fall into absurd and manipulated ways of thinking and being. This refreshed way of viewing life is one of my favorite impacts of this travel, and one that I hope to be able to use positively throughout my life. As an aspiring medical anthropologist, I feel that this was a wonderful introductory experience to the reality of conducting international research. Research Abstract: My research focused on the tradition and practices of the wuyi; female healers who are known as “sorcerers.” My findings include the complex principles and philosophy that support this system of healing, how this kind of healing is practiced, how the wuyi live and work in contemporary China, how they are viewed in their communities, as well as the long history of these kind of healers. At the center of the wuyi’s power to heal is the claim that she can communicate with animal spirits, ghosts, gods, and Buddhas. This is the source of her ability to heal others, and it is the primary influence on how she treats and diagnoses disease. I am compiling the information from my field notes and interviews, and I intend to resume my research of Chinese culture and history to support my findings.

Soren Norris
A Comparison of the Prevalence of Anxiety and Depression between Urban and Rural Chinese High Schools

This research trip to China this past summer was rewarding for several reasons. I was fortunate enough to live in another culture and by doing so gain first hand understanding of how China works on a day-to-day basis. To be completely honest, what struck me most about China was the terrible air pollution experienced in the cities. The culture is a vibrant, communal one. As a person witnesses the flow of traffic through the cities it is touching to observe how motorists, bicyclists, adults and children alike look out for each other. This trip probably will not change the direction of my life, but it did cement many of my ideas about life. Be grateful for what you have, treat others better than they treat you, and most importantly don’t complain about petty things. This list could continue forever but words rarely convey genuine feelings.

Research Abstract: I conducted my research in two unique locations. First, at Jen Ren middle school in Anyang County, Henan Province, a rural area and at Subordinate middle school of Liocheng University in Liocheng City, in Shandong province. At theses schools I had students complete an anxiety checklist. When the statistical analysis is complete I will be able to compare anxiety levels between urban and rural students as well as American students.

Venues for Sharing

Soren Norris plans to give a presentation to the college community. Other students either have graduated or away from the college.