Ancient China - Teacher's Guide

China Teachers' Guide

Chinese bowl

It's important to avoid presenting the study of ancient China as "what is different about Chinese culture from our culture today?" This approach leads to a long list of technological inventions like the telephone and the television, that we have and the ancient Chinese didn't. And if you ask what is the same, it's even worse: they end up listing so many things that are the same, that you get the idea there aren't any important differences at all!

It seems to work better to ask about choices - where did the Chinese make different choices from us? How did their choices work out? This helps the children to see that we ourselves make choices about our own society, and that it could be possible to make different choices. For instance, the ancient Chinese had an emperor, while we have a democracy. And they chose to find leaders through the examination system, where we use interviews and job experience too. You may want to have the children act out some of these choices in skits.

It can work to have the children find the many things we use today which came originally from China, too: chickens, pigs, silk, peaches, paper, chess, gunpowder, and compasses, for instance.

For some good suggestions for teaching about China, check out these books from or from your library:

Exploring Cultures Through Art: China and Japan : Grades 4-8, by Diana Granat (2002). Art projects.

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes, by Nina Simonds and others (Children's Museum of Boston, 2002).

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