China Fieldwork Semester Blog

The China Fieldwork Semester is an intensive project-based student research program in Xizhou, Yunnan. The program consists of a group of 11th and 12th grade students from Sidwell Friends and other US schools. Students work together in a research “collaboratory” housed in a historic residential facility.

Blog content shared here is a selection from personal reflections by students and faculty. Click here to see a video created by the students discussing their experiences. 

This is the second year the China Fieldwork Semester program has run. To read the 2014 blog, please click here.  

  • March in Xizhou

    Posted: Thursday, March 19
    By Alison Steinbach ’14, CFS Teaching Assistant
    Raphael Cohen-Fuentes ’16 playing the erhu together with his apprenticeship master. (taken by Alison Steinbach '14)

    March has been very exciting so far for CFS students here in Xizhou. Each student has been apprenticing with a master to learn a local craft, and students have been participating in interesting Landscape Ecology labs in various ecosystems.

  • Chinese New Year in Xizhou

    Posted: Saturday, February 28
    By Raphael Cohen-Fuentes ‘16
    Raphael celebrating Chunjie with a sparkler. (taken by Alison Steinbach '14)

    In the week leading up to the Chinese New Year, or chunjie in Chinese, all of Xizhou mentally prepares itself for the preparations to come.

  • A Weekend Trip to Shaxi

    Posted: Sunday, February 22
    By Jake Van Meter ’15
    The table during an evening tea session with Zhong Laoshi by Alison Steinbach ’14, CFS Teaching Assistant

    Shaxi (沙溪) is a historic market town on the tea and horse trade route leading from Yunnan to Tibet and Burma. We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit this historic center of life.

  • Seeing the Cangshan, arriving in Xizhou, and the Ecotour

    Posted: Wednesday, February 18
    By Nikhil Chaudhuri ’15
    Yinli Jinzhai’s entrance (“men kou”) by Nikhil Chaudhuri ’15

    It has been a very busy two weeks leading into “Chunjie,” or Chinese New Year. One must never have any debts when “Chunjie” arrives. As students, our debts are more scholarly than monetary.

  • Landscape Ecology Unit

    Posted: Thursday, February 12
    By Alison Steinbach ’14, CFS Teaching Assistant
    Photo: Logan Friedman ’16 and Abby Castillo ’16 make notes while bird-watching at the wetlands ecotour. Photo by Alison Steinbach ’14.

    Today students began a multi-day Landscape Ecology fieldwork project on various ecosystems here in our extraordinarily diverse area.

  • Meeting local farm host families

    Posted: Tuesday, February 10
    By Alison Steinbach ’14, CFS Teaching Assistant
    Photo: The farm host family of Jake Van Meter ’15 and Nathaniel Ostrer ’16. Photo by Jake Van Meter ’15.

    After completing the house project, students traveled in groups of two or three to meet their “farm host families.” Every week, students will visit these families, eat a meal together, practice speaking Chinese, and learn about the farming practices and lives of the host families.

  • Houses: the first history-based fieldwork research project

    Posted: Saturday, February 7
    By Alison Steinbach ’14, CFS Teaching Assistant
    Photo: Students learn about a traditional Xizhou house. Photo by Alison Steinbach ’14.

    This week students split into three groups, and each went out to research a specific old house here in town.

  • Three Pagodas and Cangshan World Heritage Geopark

    Posted: Thursday, February 5
    By John Flower, CFS Faculty

    On Monday we began studying the foundations of place, beginning with the spiritual and political center of the Three Pagodas Temple, and on Tuesday and Wednesday we focused on the geology of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake.

  • Visit with U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus

    Posted: Thursday, January 29
    By John Flower, CFS Faculty
    Photo by Andrew Hak Ou

    The first week of CFS 2015 included visits to the Forbidden City and National Museum in Beijing, and the Green Lake district in sunny Kunming, Yunnan Province, on the way to our final destination: the town of Xizhou in Dali.

  • Orientation

    Posted: Friday, January 23
    By Alison Steinbach ’14, CFS Teaching Assistant
    Emma Loizeaux ’09 explains GIS mapping to students during the first day of orientation. (Credit: Alison Steinbach ’14)

    This semester, 10 students are participating in China Fieldwork Semester–seven students are juniors and seniors from Sidwell Friends, one is from the Maret School, one is from the Punahou School in Hawaii, and one is from the Dalton School in New York City.


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