Bing’s Souvenir Poker Cards

Bing is a strong Chinese woman in her late 2os, and she has been a traveller for many years. She is from Heilongjiang Province and came to UK to study in 2010 and went back to China this year. Her plan is to run a youth hostel in Harbin.

Her story with souvenirs were started by a set of poker cards she bought in the Forbidden back in the winter of 2006.

Li Bing's Forbidden City Poker Card

Bing’s first set of souvenir poker card. Themed on Forbidden City. Photo provided by Bing, 24/Nov/2015. Same below. 

“I bought this set of poker cards because each card of it has a thorough and detailed introduction of an ancient building in the Forbidden City. It is a souvenir comes with knowledge of the place I have visited – it can help me understand the place better. Also, it is quite small so easier to carry home than other souvenirs. Not so likely to be broken and it is easier to keep.” Bing said.

After nine years of collection, Bing’s poker cards have reached a certain number. Most of them were bought at the site of interest, but some of them came from some special shops which only sell cards.

“I don’t might where the cards are produced. It would not affect my opinion and feelings towards them.” Bing said, “I’ve never used them as normal playing cards, they are my precious souvenirs. I store them in a safe place and take them out to have a look when I remember them or when I am in the mood.”

Li Bing's Poker Cards

Bing’s collection of souvenir poker cards.


Beside souvenirs, Bing also collects cards in other ways, like in instant noodles (in some certain era, some brands of instant noodles would put cards in the package for customers to collect. Those cards might come from pop TV dramas, novel illustrations…e.g. Pearl Princess, see below).

Cards of Pearl Princess

Bing’s card collection of TV drama, Pearl Princess. 

After collecting cards, Bing is interested in  collecting other souvenirs. When she travels to a new place, she would buy a set of poker cards, a fridge magnet and send herself a postcard.

It is possible that one of them is missing or she forgets to buy one of them, but she would not buy place souvenirs online. “Missing is missing, I accepted it as part of the place experience. I understand some people buy collections online because they want to have a ‘completed’ collection. But for me, I only want to keep the ones I take home from the places I have been to. Even I forgot to buy, I would not look for them online. It means different.”

Bing started collecting fridge magnet only 1 year ago, so “my collection is not many”, she said.

Li Bing's Fridge Magnet

Bing’s fridge magnets collection. 

Li Bing‘s postcards 2

Bing’s post cards collection, the text side.

Li Bing‘s postcards

Bing’s post cards collection, the pictorial side. 

Bing’s plan is to run a Youth Space – her own youth hostel – in Harbin next year, and she would display all her souvenir collections in the Youth Space.

Best wishes to Bing and I would update here when her Youth Space is open and continue following her souvenirs’ life.

Getting to know tie-dyeing

Hi everyone, finally I am back from fieldwork in China and can update my blog from now on.  I still cannot believe wordpress is blocked (like Facebook does) in China! Anyway, here I am~

My fieldwork in China was quite intense and now I am transcribing the interviews. Along with transcribing, I will post fieldwork story here bit by bit. I might lose my ability to speak English after 3 months in China, so bear with me and tell me whenever you spot a mistake.  Thanks a million~

Today we are getting to know tie-dyeing.  What is tie-dyeing? Let me show you a picture first:

Tie-dyed cloth. Photo by author in Dali. Feb 2015

Tie-dyed cloth. Photo by author in Dali. Feb 2015

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, to tie-dye something is to make patterns on cloth by tying knots in it or tying string around it before you put it in a dye, so that some parts receive more colour than others.

The main Oxford Dictionary says to tie-dye is to produce patterns in (a garment or piece of cloth) by tying parts of it to shield it from the dye.

Wikipedia offered a rather confusing explanation which mixed tie-dyeing and other resist-dyeing techniques, but it got the technique right. The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from colouring the fabric. Resist-dyeing techniques were found in Africa, Japan and South Asia – where Dali Zhoucheng Village (Yunnan Province, China) is.

Landscape of Dali

Landscape of Dali

Zhoucheng Bai Zu tie-dyed souvenirs plant a seed deeply in my heart when I travelled to Dali with my mom 17 years ago (1997). This traditional folk craft product of the ethnic minority Bai Zu somehow managed telling me how important authenticity is back that time. Bai Zu tie-dyeing is closely related to Bai Zu people’s life, linking various forms of traditional culture and cultural space. Also, it combined culture and art in one object; hence it has a unique and precious value and vital significance for both Bai Zu culture and Chinese culture as a whole.

The natural environment has deep influence on the ethnic nationality of Bai Zu people. Bai Zu people worship the colour white, so we are called Bai ethnic group – “Bai” means white in Chinese. “You can see our houses use white walls. We like wearing white clothes – our young people all wear white clothes. White means purity, honest and loyalty and integrity, etc., good characteristics, we worship these characteristics.” Yihui Chen, the heir of Blue-white Tie-dyeing House said.

It’s a Bai Zu ethnic tradition that young people wearing white clothes. People of Zhoucheng Village lived on hillside, they went to fields to get firewood, the indigo might coloured their white clothes, and then they discovered that the indigo can be dyestuff, and it can make beautiful blue background and white flowers cloth (Chen, 2015).

In 2006,Bai Zu tie-dyeing was listed in the first national nonmaterial cultural heritage lists (Intangible Cultural Heritage).

Now some Bai Zu tie-dyeing exist as souvenirs. In order to learn about the current situation of tie-dyed souvenirs, I decide to go to Dali again. Dali is a small and remote town in Yunnan Province (southwest China), which is an ethnic minority autonomous region inhabited by ethnic minority Bai Zu. Fieldwork site is Zhoucheng Village (see figure 2), the birth place of Bai Zu tie-dying, and naturally now the making place of most Bai Zu tie-dyeing souvenirs.

A normal street food stand in Zhoucheng Village. Photo by author. Feb 2015

A normal street food stand in Zhoucheng Village. Photo by author. Feb 2015

My fieldwork was carried in Blue-white Tie-dyeing House in Dali (the picture below), and my story is to be continued.

Blue-white Tie-dyeing House @Dali. Photo by author. Feb 2015

Blue-white Tie-dyeing House @Dali. Photo by author. Feb 2015

The biography of a souvenir, a biography of a person: Victoria’s blanket with badges

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

The blanket

Souvenirs collecting is a time-consuming hobby. Among all the souvenirs for collecting, badges are unique. It is not in the condition of display or storage – it is designed to be sewed on other things, it is a souvenir to be dealt with, requires extra action before the final touch. Several steps would be gone through for collecting badges as souvenirs. First is to find it and bring it back home from a trip, secondly to sew it on other material, and finally is the storage and displaying of the piece of material with the badge on. Given all these efforts, I know I am going to see a piece of art work today.

Victoria is a female PhD student lives in London now, and she started collecting badges when she was younger. The souvenir she is presenting to me, is a deep blue blanket with lots badges with different colours sewed on the surface. The deep blue blanket is nearly fully covered by badges with bright colour and the visual impact is massive.

Victoria started to give me an introduction of her blanket with badges.

“This is a camp blanket. When I was younger, I was in the Guides and Scout. One of the things they do, is when they go camping, they have a particular blanket they take to keep them warm near the camp fire. So this is a camp blanket made by the Guides. So somewhere……”

Victoria started looking for something on the blanket.

“Ah, here we go”, she find a logo whose colour has faded away in a corner of the blanket then she continues to tell the story how she got her blanket. “You can’t see it very well anymore, but there is the Guide’s logo. So this is like an official Guide in UK camp blanket. And that was the name of my guiding group when I was younger.” She pointed to another faded logo.

“I bought this blanket when I was about 10. First of all I only put my guide badges on there. This corner is my Guide’s badges.”

“Then I have also got a corner sewed on my old Branny badges. So when you are in the Branny, you have material satchel, which is part of your uniform, and you sew your name badges on to that. When I finished with the Branny, I took all my badges off my satchel and when I got my Guide’s blanket, I put them on here

“When I was 13, I got bored of Guides and moved to Scout. So in this corner, I got the badges came from my Scout career. “

My eye got caught by a piece of material sewed on the blanket which is not a badge. Victoria saw my eyes and started explain. “This is a piece of material from a theme camp we once had. It was a cow-boy and Indian theme, and this is my Indian head dress. So when I finish with it I sewed it on my blanket because I thought that was a nice reminder.”

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

The collecting of badges

Victoria moved to another corner. “My non-scouting and guiding souvenirs started in this corner. Obviously you know I didn’t stick with Scouting and Guiding, but I did stick on collecting badges. So they start taking off the whole blanket now.” Victoria seemed pleased with her achievement and spoke with pride and smile. “I don’t have a whole lot of space left you can see that is all I’ve got left. Whenever I travel, I try to find myself a badge and I’ve got pretty good at knowing the kind of places in souvenir shops they store them.”

But it is not always as easy as that. “I went to Spain on an undergraduate fieldtrip and I just couldn’t find one. When I went to Bristol recently, I was able to get one for XXXX AASS Britain which is a particular toy attraction. I went to have a look around but I couldn’t find one for Bristol generally. In some places you just can’t get them. But I will look when I travel, and keep looking in all the souvenir shops until I find one.”

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

Badges as presents and non-place-related badges – Representing Relations

Some of the badges are given to Victoria as presents. When her friends went on holiday, they bought badges as presents and brought them back for Victoria. “I don’t know how I feel about it,” Victoria comments, “sometimes I like the idea sometimes I don’t, because it feels like I am cheating a bit since I haven’t been to the places.”

When asked to show me one badge given to her as present, Victoria chose one without hesitate. “There is one from Florida, from the Everglades in Florida. It was a present from my ex-boyfriend. I myself have never been to Florida.” According to Victoria, what this badge reminds her is her ex-boyfriend, instead of Florida the place.

Victoria showed me another badge. “This one, the Grand Canyon. I have been to the Grand Canyon, but that was bought for me by somebody else in a different occasion. I feel better about that one because I have been to the place, but it is still different. ”

Also as we moving on, I noticed there are some badges which are not related to places. There is one saying “Staying in the house, Carl” is referring to the Walking Dead Zombie show. Victoria got it as a Christmas present, as well as the angry birds one. These souvenirs do not indicate a place (neither have a picture of a place not have a name of a place on it) and are not place-specific (do not remind Victoria of a place). But some of her souvenirs do not indicate a place but are place-specific souvenirs. “For example this Hello Kitty, I bought it I Camden Market. It reminds me of Camden Market although it does not its name or picture on it. For me, it is a souvenir of a place.”

Victoria’s badge collection started souvenirs for events (Scouting etc.), expanded to travelling souvenirs, took off with place souvenirs, and now is an ongoing project of collecting relations.

Victoria's blanket with badges

Victoria’s blanket with badges

Badges’ before-life and after-life

Before being sewed on the blanket, Victoria’s badges are stored in her sewing box, a very good place to indicate their fate to be sewed on the blanket. And some of them will end up in her sewing box. “I have a compartment here,” Victoria lifted the upper compartment and the lower one revealed itself. “These are the badges I’ve got to sew on. They are on my waiting list. I also got some old badges here. Like this one, I have more than one of these. And I have got some buttons here as well. Sometimes I have a big gap on the blanket I will sew some buttons on, because they are pretty, haha.” Space for souvenirs is not just for souvenirs. “Oh but these buttons I got them when I went to Banbury on holiday last year, oh, now is the year before last year. Again they don’t have place name on it but they remind me of that holiday, in Banbury somewhere in Oxfordshire.” In the button’s case, souvenirs and non-souvenirs are sharing one space: the lower compartment of Victoria’s sewing box.

Collecting badges and sewing them on her blanket needs time. When she was an undergraduate and a master student, it was hard to sew the badges on, according to Victoria. “Because I need a big flat area like this to lay the blanket out on it, and then sew on my badges. I didn’t have a space like that in halls. When I was in university, I got a little bit behind on my badges……oh…. I have got a huge tangle here.” Victoria was sewing on a badge while we having the interview. While she is untangling the thread, she continued, “When I move to London, I have a chance to catch up.”

This makes me rethink about doing an interview while my interviewee shows me how they deal with their souvenirs. They are easily cast away into memories the souvenirs intrigue. My methods needs to be improved.

When asked about what she is going to do when the whole blanket is full, which is not far away from now, Victoria hesitated a little bit. “Well, that is a good question. I have to decide what I am going to do. Hmm. I won’t stop collecting, obviously. I think what I am going to do is, get another blanket, I will try to get one of the same size, ideally. So when both of them are full, I can sew them together, and have it double-sided.”

Victoria's sewing box

Victoria’s sewing box

Authenticity of the badges

This project is interested in the authenticity of souvenirs. When asked about the making site of her souvenir badges, Victoria seems paying less attention to their authenticity. “Actually I don’t know… I would guess they are not produced locally, but I am OK with it. For me, the fact that they represent the place and they remind me of it is what is important. So they help me remember it. That is what matters for me. So it doesn’t matter where it comes from because it has got you know a picture or the name of the place.”

Further more, we talked about other souvenirs on their authenticity. I asked about Victoria’s opinion on badges of Finland, France etc. being sold in the souvenir shop Great Britannia in Piccadilly Circus, she said “I think it is a little bit odd, if I am honest. But I have seen it quite often. We can buy badges for other countries in souvenir shops in London, and we can buy badges for London in Brighton and Oxford… Personally I would not buy them myself.” But in other situation, Victoria is more open about it. When she couldn’t find a badge in the place she travelled to, but see one in the souvenir shop in London, “yes I will buy it. But not if I have not been to the place.”

Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster: Transnational Home Making

Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster: Transnational Home Making

Wang Wei's set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

Wang Wei’s set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

To see the souvenir, and how Wang Wei handles her souvenir:

A close-up of the Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster

The placement of the Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster in Wang Wei’s:

the set of 4 Beijing Opera Facial Masks as souvenir: 

Wang Wei is a female Chinese from Tieling in Liaoning Province, which is in northeast of China. Being in her mid-twenty now, she has been living in UK for 5 years. She said she had spent the most beautiful years of her life in UK. Finishing her study in 2012, she and her Polish boyfriend (now her fiancée) moved to Reading and both found jobs in Reading. She and her fiancée mortgaged a comfortable two-story house in east Reading.

Firstly arrived in Wang Wei’s house is 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Sunlight penetrated the wide window on the wall dividing the garden and the living room. She invited me in and asked me to sit down on the sofa. While she was away in the kitchen fetching a cup of tea for me, I took the chance to observe her newly bought house. Water-blue wall paper was smoothly glued on the walls. The floor is clean. The sofa is dry, soft and clean. In front of me is a modern style glass coffee table which added extra life to the living room. The glass on the coffee table is clear and shiny, with reflection of bright window. There were some cakes and snacks on the coffee table. The coffee table has a black lower shelf, with some magazines, CDs and other things on it, well orgnised. Everything in this house were bright and new. They were new-borns in this family and were ready to have their own biography.

Wang Wei's living room

Wang Wei’s living room

While waiting for the water to boil, Wang Wei came out from kitchen, and took two beverage coasters from the black lower shelf, placed them on the coffee table. These two beverage coasters were ordinary ones, with some flowers on their surfaces.  Wang Wei went back to the kitchen and carried two mugs out with her, and placed them on the two floral beverage coasters.

Wang Wei seemed happy when we start talking about her souvenirs. She reached down to the black lower shelf, and took another beverage coaster. The souvenir Wang Wei going to introduce to me was among other mundane beverage coasters. Wang Wei’s beloved souvenir was a Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster. Like other beverage coasters, it was made of plastic and paper. What made it outstanding from other coasters, is there is an iron part in the centre of it, which can prevent the heat go through. This is a traditional Beijing Opera Facial Mask on the iron. It is an icon of China.​

Wang Wei's Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

She bought the souvenir object in August 2012 in Beijing Capital Airport, when she and her fiancée flied back to UK from Beijing after they went to pay a visit to Wang Wei’s family in China. I interviewed Wang Wei on 25 Oct 2014 @ her home in Reading, which was two years later after their trip in which they collected this souvenir. Back in 2012, it was her first time to bring her fiancée home to see her parents. Their transnational relationship has broadened the scale of this interview immediately.

When asked should souvenirs be produced locally and why, Wang Wei gave me a clear answer. Wang Wei explains: if it is sold in a tourist attraction spot it is better to be produced in that place, because it represents that place’s character. If it is sold in transporting places like airport, she is ok with souvenirs represent a larger scale to be sold. She offered an example, she is happy to see souvenirs represent other places in China to be sold in Beijing Capital Airport.

(follow up question: buy souvenirs representing where they have not been to, representing somewhere else)

Wang Wei holds a half open opinion for out-sourced souvenirs too. Firstly she stands in sellers’ shoes: to the sellers (who sell outsourced souvenirs in a tourist attraction) there must be some benefits. As we know, if the souvenirs are produced in countries like China and India where human labour is cheaper, the purchasing price  can go down a little bit, if sold at the same price, our-sourced souvenirs can bring more benefit to souvenir shops. But for foods, Wang Wei really prefers it to be produced locally, and even on the spot, because of the freshness.

Then we talked about the usage of this beverage coaster souvenir. Wang Wei thinks a souvenir coaster should be used as a coaster: glasses should be placed on it. “When I drink a cup of tea, I place my cup on this coaster… But since it has the Beijing Opera Facial Masks design on it, I handle it more carefully.” She explains how she use the Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster.

Wang Wei prefer to collect functional and practical souvenirs which will become handy at some points. She also displays photos in well-designed frames in the house.

There is an interesting point raised in Wang Wei’s interview: this Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster does not only reminds Wag Wei of beautiful and wonderful memories, but also unpleasant memories. “Every time I saw it it reminds me the flight in Beijing Capital Airport was delayed for two hours that day… Hehe… And how helpless my fiancée and I were…” Wang Wei’s face expression showed her unpleasantness was true and the souvenir did remind her about the unlucky times. But she indicated that she will keep this souvenir, no matter what.

In my opinion this souvenir plays a more important role in Wang Wei’s home-making which she herself has not thought of yet. Wang Wei originally came from China and now living in Britain with her Polish fiancée. Souvenirs from Poland and China would presumably have a huge impact on abstract conceptualization of home in Wang Wei’s case. Home is not just a place for relaxing activities but also being a meaningful place. Wang Wei’s Beijing Opera Facial Mask beverage coaster is a material and symbolic intersection of Wang Wei’s home and her homeland China.

In Wang Wei’s home, national symbols serve not only to make domestic paces home-like, but also to domesticate ideas of the nation, making Wang Wei partly feel like still living in her birth country. Souvenirs in home articulate domestic spaces to national experience (Noble, 2002:54)

The evidence of this opinion can be found in the ways how Wang Wei handle this Beijing Opera Facial Mask coaster. She confirms that she would not throw the souvenirs away even if it is broken in the future. The inner part of this souvenir is made of metal, but Wang Wei still think it is unsecure that she always have something representing China in her home. The solution is, she has back-ups.

Wang Wei's set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

Wang Wei’s set of Beijing Opera Facial Mask Coaster

“It is from a set. This is the green face, which represents a deceitful person in Beijing Opera. There are red face, white face and black face in this set as well.” Wang Wei continues. As I go further asking whether she would throw them away if all in the set are broken, Wang Wei answers: “I don’t think they will be broken, but just the metal facial mask gets blurred. I think I will still keep them, they are souvenirs after all.”

Links of Souvenir Object Analysis Form

Data collection is a ongoing process: I am interested in your souvenir collections even the even the project’s fieldwork is finished. Share your story with your souvenir with me by filling in the souvenir survey forms.

I hold a free account on Survey Monkey which means limited questions are allowed ( 10 questions this time), so the form is stretched into two parts.

The two links of souvenir survey forms:

Part 1.

Part 2.

Participant Information Sheet for Souvenirs’ Home Placement Studies



I would like to invite you to participate in this original research project. You should only participate if you want to; choosing not to take part will not disadvantage you in any way. Before you decide whether you want to take part, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what your participation will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully and discuss it with others if you wish. Ask me if there is anything that is not clear or if you would like more information.


General information


Project TitleSouvenir Geographies


ResearcherZhuyun Amy Zang (Royal Holloway, University of London)  Researcher No. 100750439


Research Aims

This project is committed to empirical research, aiming to explore how the tourist souvenirs ‘make’ places in a quadruple-layer: making site, tourist site, non-place(e.g. airports) site and tourist’s home. The process of place making by tourist souvenir is revealed by following the tourist souvenirs.


Participant Information for Home Placement studies

Based on our previous contact, I take you willing to take part in the Home Placement studies. So now you are reading the participant information for just Home Placement studies.


  •  When and Where Will the Study Take Place?

The study will take place in your home at a time that is convenient to you.

  • l How Long Will the Study Last?

It will take around 15to 25 mins for a participant to prepare a camera/mobile phone, take photos of his/her souvenirs and send the photos back to me.

  • What Will You Be Asked to Do?

Please take photos of your souvenirs. Four kinds of photos are wanted. Firstly is a long shot, better showing your room environment and where you keep your souvenirs. In this photo, the place where you store your souvenirs might be very small or does not show directly in the picture. For example, if you store you souvenir in a draw, please take a photo of your room; if you have a oven glove as your souvenir and you are using it, please take a photo of your kitchen. Secondly is a middle shot. In this photo, please show me the placement of your souvenirs and its spational relationship with other souvenirs. For example, if you keep souvenirs in a draw, take a photo of all the souvenirs in this draw. Thirdly is a close-up of the souvenir. Please give me a close shot of the souvenir from which I can identify what is it. It will be better to have a fourth photo which is the label of the souvenir, showing where it is produced etc..

After taking the photos, please tell me the story of your souvenirs (I am sure you must have a lot to say about it). For example, you can start with WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW, with WHO you got your souvenirs.

  • l How would the images and information collected be used?

The images and information collected will be used exclusively for my PhD project: Souvenir Geographies, including being part of my PhD thesis (presentations, publications), and being posted on the souvenir geographies blog if permitted.

  • l Would personal details be anonymized?

Participants’ locations, nationality, gender and age group are the information needed. Other personal details such as images, names will remain anonymised.

  • Is there an opportunity to review how the information is being used in advance?

I will create a doc. file for each participant and can send this word.doc to participants. Unfortunately, because of the amount of participants I will have, and time schedule, I will not send out my PhD thesis for participants to review, but all the information used in the thesis will be from the word.doc file.

  • l Are you able to provide assurance of how the images provided would be stored and later destroyed at the appropriate time?

The PhD thesis will be hand in to Geography Department in Royal Holloway, University of London in August 2016, and it will be stored there and its electrical version will be available to students in RHUL. The information on the project’s blog will also be there. None of them are planned to be destroyed.

  • l Over what time period and by what means should I be collecting images?

It is noticeable that souvenirs placement do change from time to time. It is totally up to you which souvenir (from which time) you want to share the information. I appreciate all the information provided. You can send me photos many time, just need to inform me.

  • Are There Any Benefits Involved in Participating?

At the conclusion of the project, I will send you a newsletter describing the major findings and alerting you to any research publications we have generated from the project.

  • l What If I Have Questions about the Project?

Please contact me by email at email address, by phone at mobile number, or by post at university address. You can also contact me by messaging on Facebook, @ me on twitter, and commenting on the project’s blog.





It is up to you to decide whether to take part or not. If you decide to take part you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason. You may withdraw your data from the project at any time up until the PhD thesis is submitted (August 2016). If you do decide to take part you will be given this information sheet to keep and be asked to sign a consent form. If you agree to take part, you will be asked whether you are happy to be contacted about participation in future studies. Your participation in this study will not be affected should you choose not to be recontacted.


If this study has harmed you in any way you can contact Royal Holloway, University of London using the details below for further advice and information:

Dr Harriet Hawkins  Phone: +44 1784 414673

Professor Veronica Della Dora  Phone: +44 1784 443642



Zhuyun (Amy) ZANG

Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London. Egham, Surrey, UK. TW20 0EX.


Project Blog:

Phone: + 44 (0)7428148628
University profile:


Twitter: @AmyNanzhan



Thanks a million!!


Postcard as a METHOD

So! After days of preparation, postcards for pilot field work are ready now.   I have prepared two kinds of postcards: one is normal pictorial postcards as we see in any souvenir shop, and the other is customized. There are 20 postcards for each kind (well, the customized one has 24 of its kind, because of the print shop owner’s kindness XD ).


Pictorial postcard

Pictorial postcard


This is a two sides pictorial postcard. The pictorial side is kept as it is; while I put a questionnaire and my post address.   There are several questions about the authenticity of souvenirs, and the questionnaire is tailored for tourists, who have limited time on the spot and I hope they can finish the questionnaire when they have time (e.g. in the bus or in their hotel rooms), and then they can send it back to me any time they feel like.


The second set of my postcards are customized.


Customised postcards: text only

Customised postcards: text only


In the second kind of postcard, there is no picture and I moved the post address to the front, making it possible to have space for another question on the back.  Comparing to the pictorial ones, the text only postcards are simpler and plainer. Maybe its simplicity and plaining will make the tourist want to keep them less, so I will have a better returning rate.


two different sets

two different sets



We will see how it works out in the field!  🙂

First day of field work shows a new method is needed


Field work diary day 1.  Saturday, March 22, 2014

Heathrow Airport, Terminal 1

Aim: come to find out a way to get into Baggage Claim Area, and interview passengers who are waiting for their baggage.

Reason: Travellers have limited time when travelling; they tend to have no time to take interview and fill out a questionnaire, but when they are waiting for their baggage, they might want to spare a little time to talk with me.


There are three floors in Heathrow Terminal 1 building. -1 Floor is for transportation like local buses, Underground and Heathrow Express; Ground Floor is for Arrivals; and First Floor is for Departures. I came to Ground Floor, walked towards the tunnel in which passengers are arriving from. There was a big red sign of ‘No Entry’ in front of the tunnel. I need to think of how to get to the Baggage Claim Area. There is an Information Desk in front of the tunnel, so I asked a staff near the desk. I clarified my identity and ask whether it is possible to have access to the Baggage Claim Area. He said I need to have the airport’s ID pass to get in there. I offered some conditions like can I get in there with some university letters or I can go there with a staff with me. The staff near the info desk said it might be possible but he was not sure. I was told go to upstairs which is the Departure Floor and advised to speak to Security.


Cant get into baggage claim area

Cant get into baggage claim area

information desk

information desk

At this stage, this mess makes me rethink why I need to have access to the Baggage claim area. I might cause the passengers miss their luggage which they are waiting for. This is an disadvantage aspect. Plus they are in a new, strange/unfamiliar country, the passengers might not want to speak to anyone. Nobody has done a field work in baggage claim area, it might have a reason. But there are advantages. The participants for my research I am looking for are international travellers. Travellers normally have very limited time. When they are waiting for their luggage, they might want to have a char. And it is a place where my best participants will gather: British going to Beijing and Chinese coming to London. I can now 1) give up or 2) go to talk to the security. I chose the later and went upstairs.

On the First Floor, I hang around the departure gates in front of security check, talked to the staff who was handing out transparent bags for on-board cosmetics. He turned out to be a person whose responsibility was just handing out bags…  The staff near him redirected me to a corner where real security was. It is a woman, and after I explained what I want, she introduced me to her supervisor, Dan. After talking with Dan, I have two answers.

The first is I can’t have access to the baggage claim area, not even if I offer university letters, or on the condition of having a staff with me. A person needs to hold a airport staff ID pass to go there and because of airport security control, no one else will be allowed in there. Secondly, I need to speak to the Media Department to have the permission of doing research in the airport. The info for Media Depart can be found on Heathrow’s website.

When i was hanging around in the airport, there were several things caught my attention. In the bookstore WH Smith (on First floor the departure hall), there is an area for souvenirs. Postcards are outstanding because their spacial arrangement is very clear. Postcards related to Royal family stay in a line, and natural scenery another. Saw a Royal mail stand near the souvenir area, which is very convenient for passengers to post the postcards they just bought.


postcards space arrangement

postcards space arrangement

Royal Mail stand

Royal Mail stand

On the ground floor for Arrival, there is a maps (ads) stand near the arriving tunnel. The maps and ads are in English and they are introducing tourist spots like theatre, London Eye, Kensington Palace, etc., and suddenly I found a Chinese Edition of this and in this map, shopping centres are marked out outstandingly. This map which specializing luxury shopping confirms my assumption that so many Chinese interest in luxury shopping and the reason might be the products are not just luxuries but also souvenirs from a Capital Western world.


Ads stand

Ads stand

Chinese edition specialising shopping centre

Chinese edition specialising shopping centre

I saw many money exchange stands (Bureau de change) on this floor, and it occurred to me that foreign currency can be souvenirs as well. Small amount of cash and coins are kept from the journey (the amount is too small that the Bureau de change will not take it, they are forced to become souvenirs). When money stops moving, it doesn’t have the value of money, it became a new thing – banal souvenir (will talk more about this in the future) [Link to Marx’s Capital, on Money].

My first day of field work shows that I need to find alternative method of doing this research. I will go to try Chinese Embassy (where people get Chinese visas from), and talk to Chinese travel agencies and London travel agencies.

When I was typing this, my first field work diary of polit field work, the idea of putting this into my blog hit me. So here we go. 🙂 Hope you enjoy reading and give me some advice if you have some.