Ancient + Medieval China Unit Study: Week 1

We are so excited to learn about Ancient + Medieval China this week, digging deep into some of the country’s most famous legends, incredible architectural feats, and (of course) tasty dishes. Our lessons this week will introduce geography facts, math applications, art and creative writing. Click here for our skills tracker to record what you work on and what you read this week.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Optional additional reading:

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

Note: We break down our supply list by so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

Make a map activity:

Great Wall of China model:

Terracotta warriors:

Writing prompts:

Chopsticks practice:

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Activity 1: Geography + Basic facts. Find China on Google Earth, in an atlas, or a world map and begin to learn this country’s geography. Here are some of the facts you can share as you examine the map.

  • Its territory includes mountains, high plateaus, sandy deserts, and dense forests. Watch this video for an overview of the land, water and other interesting facts as well as beautiful images that depict the vast land differences in this wondrous landscape. (There’s a silly game in the video they might want to play along with.)
  • One-third of China’s land area is made up of mountains. The tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, sits on the border between China and Nepal. Read more about Mt. Everest here, and then watch this video for more information about Mount Everest and other tall peaks.  Here is a video of people climbing to the summit. 🥶
  • China has thousands of rivers. The Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers are the most important. At 3,915 miles (6,300 kilometers) long, the Yangtze is the world’s third largest river.
  • The giant panda lives in the misty mountains of southwest China. They eat bamboo and usually live near the woody evergreen plant. Read more about pandas here
  • For centuries, China was way ahead of most other countries in science and technology, astronomy, and math. We will learn about many of these inventions and discoveries during the month.

An important note is that modern borders of China don’t look the same as the maps of Ancient China. Look at this link to see how the borders of China have changed through the centuries.  

Activity 2: Mapping activity. There are two options for this activity. You can print a map of modern day China and draw in the details, or you can create your own map from scratch. 

Before starting this activity, let’s review what a map should include. Watch this short video for some map basics. Next, pick which activity you’ll do from the instructions below.

Print and draw map: Print out these coloring pages of maps of China and add in extra details using this interactive map of China. For example, you can add the rivers, mountains, and names of bordering nations. 

Create a map from scratch:  Here’s your inspiration. Using a large paper (like one from a roll) and colored pencils or markers, draw out the border of China. Using this interactive map of China, find the rivers, mountains, and bordering nations. Label your map with as many details as you can.

Keep your map safe once it is complete. We will be adding a rose compass to it next week.

Activity 3: Time Zones. Watch this video for geography lesson about time zones. Although geographically China spans five time zones, all clocks throughout China are set eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. That means that as you travel within China, you will never have to adjust your watch. Whether you travel from Beijing in the East, to Sichuan in the West, there will not be a time difference. (source) Let’s play with time zones with this interactive map. Try this printable with three word math problems practicing our new time zone skills.

Lesson 2:

Today, let’s look closer at one of the greatest architectural marvels of all time—the Great Wall of China!

Activity 1: Read + Discuss. Let’s learn about China’s first emperor. Read pages 166-167 of Usborne World History. Next, click and read this brief introduction to The Great Wall. Finally, watch this video.

Activity 2: Engineering Project. Using sugar cubes and icing, build a Great Wall model including walls and two towers. This project doesn’t come with step-by-step directions, but you will need sugar cubes and white icing as well as card stock or cardboard as your base. Here’s your inspiration. Let your child use their imaginations and the pictures in the books and the link in Activity 1 to create their model.

If you have multiple children, have them each work on their own portion of the wall and then unite them. When doing this, have the children decide on measurements before getting started so that their walls will have the same heights and widths. (Secret math assignment for the win! 😉)

While they build (or afterwards), read one of these two books: The Great Wall of China by Leonard Everett Fisher or You Wouldn’t Want to Work on the Great Wall of China! by Jacqueline Morely.

Lesson 3:

Activity 1: Research + Creative Writing. Learn about the Terracotta Warriors in this short video. Next, review this interactive DK webpage. (+)Learn more details and see images about this ancient marvel here.

Let’s write a story as a group! The story begins, “Terracotta Warriors were made long ago. People believe that they were made for by the Emperor in preparation for the afterlife. Here’s the real story…” Work along with your child or assign to a group of students. Using a timer, give each person 30 seconds to add to the story. Ask each person to work with the details provided by the previous story teller. (Since this exercise is fast moving, we suggest recording this with your phone instead of trying to write it out.)

Activity 2: Read the story Ming’s Adventure with the Terracotta Army. Create your own version of a terracotta warrior with modeling clay using this post as inspiration.

Lesson 4:

Today, there are many different religions practiced in China. But ancient China was the birthplace of several religious and philosophical ideas that now exist all over the world.

Activity 1: Research. Let’s learn about three of China’s main religious beliefs on this website. Create a chart detailing the similarities and differences between all three.

Activity 2: Every civilization has a creation story. Read this virtual story book to hear China’s. Make comparisons from other creations stories your child might be familiar with. 

Activity 3: Let’s learn about Confucius! Read this link for a brief overview. Next, watch this video.

Let’s use the words of Confucius as copywork. Read and discuss some of these famous quotes of Confucius and pick one to practice copywork.

***Click here for more tips on how to do copywork.

Activity 4: Writing. For today’s writing activity, we’ve provided a few prompt ideas below. Let your child pick the one they would like to write about!

  • What would you like to ask someone who follows one of the religious/philosophical beliefs we learned about? Make a list of 5-10 questions.
  • What common ideas can you find in your family values and the ones that Confucius is quoted saying?
  • Using your comic book writing paper, write a story about what you think it was like to be a wall builder.
  • Pretend you are Confucius for the day! Write 5-10 of your own wisdom quotes. (And don’t be afraid to get silly! Maybe your wisdom could be, “Eating pizza too hot will result in a burned tongue.” 😜)
Lesson 5:

Instead of preparing food in this lesson, we encourage you to take your family to a local Chinese restaurant to enjoy the cuisine and perhaps some of the culture. This lesson will prepare you for your visit with stories, history, chopstick practice (which also works those fine motor skills!), and language. 吃好喝好! (Chī hǎo hē hǎo, or “Enjoy your meal!” (source) Want to hear it out loud? Watch this video

Activity 1: Prepare for your restaurant visit by reading or listening to The Story of Chopsticks. Read the author’s note in the back of the book.

Activity 2: Watch this video to learn how to use chopsticks. You might also want to try this “helper” if you have younger children also participating in this activity. 

Now let’s practice using chopsticks with a little game! Start by filling a bowl with large pom poms and have your child transfer them to a second bowl using chopsticks. After a bit of practice, make it a game! Put the bowl of pom poms on one side of the room and the second empty bowl on the other side. Have your child pick up the pom poms with their chopsticks and try running across the room and placing the pom pom in your second bowl without dropping it on the way. If you have more than one child, have them race and see who gets more pompoms in their bowl. (Or you can race your child yourself!)

Activity 3: Let’s learn some basic greetings in preparation for your visit to a Chinese restaurant. The language spoken by the majority of the Chinese population is Mandarin. You can try learning to say hello, thank you, you’re welcome, and goodbye with this video. This other video teaches other basic expressions in a more playful way. Choose the video your child will enjoy more, or watch them both! 

Activity 4: Read this post to learn about the variety of food in Chinese cuisine. If any of the vegetables or other ingredients are new to your child, dig a little deeper and talk about how they are grown or prepared in your area. 

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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