Posts Tagged ‘Ancient China’

Booklist: Living Books on China

Living Books about China

First off, if you (like I) am a bit lost on the history of China and want a guide to walk you through it, try Judy Wilcox’s  Ancient China to the Great Wall . . . and Beyond. What I liked about this guide is that it gave me a framework on which to hang any topics we might study. It goes through Chinese history dynasty by dynasty and along the way also deals with other topics like art and poetry. It suggests other resources and readings as well as providing summaries for each dynasty. It also suggests activities such as doing one’s own calligraphy, but we did not use these. I did find that it gave different dates for the dynasties than other sources I looked at so I would use those with caution. You can see how we divided up the readings when my kids were little in this post.

Bell, M.C. Little Yellow Wang Lo. The name probably tells you this is an older book. Upper elementary, I believe.

Beshore, George. Science in Ancient China. Not the most living but a good resource. Elementary; could be used in middle school as well.

Brother Yun. The Heavenly Man. The account of a modern Christian. See my blurb here. Teens.

Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth. A classic. Teens.

Coerr, Eleanor. Chang’s Paper Pony. Easy reader level chapter book.

Compestine, Yin Chang. Revolution is not a Dinner Party. 20th century. We really enjoyed this one. Middle-teens.

DeJong, Marguerite. House of Sixty Fathers. Upper elementary-middle.

Demi. This one-named author has lots of lovely picture books on all things Chinese. Some are folk tales and others are biographies of famous people. Elementary.

Flack, Margorie. Story about Ping. Classic picture book.

Fritz, Jean. China’s Long March. 1930s. Middle-teens.

Goldstein, Peggy. Long is a Dragon. On Chinese writing.

Greenberger, Robert. The Technology of Ancient China. Not the best living bok. Elementary.

Hong, Lily Toy. Empress and the Silk Worm. Picture book on silk.

Lattimore, Eleanor. Little Pear. Wonderful older story. I believe there is a sequel as well. I think it is chapter book level.

Lewis, Elizabeth. Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze. Chapter book level. Upper elementary-middle school.

Mahy, Margaret. Seven Chinese Brothers. Picture book.

Major, John S. The Silk Route: 7,000 miles of History.

Marx, Tricia. Elephants and Golden Thrones. Shorter stories. Elementary.

Morley, Jacqueline. You wouldn’t want to be in the Forbidden City! Not the best living book but fun. Elementary.

Nagda, Ann Whitehead. Bamboo Valley. About the bamboo forest.

Ng, Teresa. Strange Stories from Ancient China. Elementary +.

Paterson, Katherine. Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom. Re Christians in the 1850s. Middle years.

Paterson, Katherine. Tale of the Mandarin Ducks. Picture book. Elementary.

Phillips, Eliza Caroline. Peeps into China. Elementary.

Preston, Diana. The Boxer Rebellion. Events of the early 1900s. Teens.

Raper, Eleanor. The Little Girl Lost. Elementary.

Seeger, Elizabeth.  The Pageant of Chinese History. Middle-teens.

Shepard, Aaron. The Monkey King. We loved this one. Elementary.

Silbey, David. The Great Game in China. 20th century/the Boxer rebellion. Teens.

Silverberg, Robert. The Long Rampart. Re the Wall. Middle-teens.

Tappan, Eva Marie. The World’s Story, Volume I: China, Japan, and the Islands of the Pacific. Part of her  The World’s Story series which covers different regions of the world, telling their stories and culture through their own myths, legends, songs, and historical accounts. Various ages.

Treffinger, Caroline. Li Lun, Lad of Courage. Elementary-middle.

Whelan, Gloria. Chu Ju’s House. Upper elementary-middle.

Williams, Susan.  Made in China. Not the best living book. Elementary-middle.

Yep, Laurence. Yep has a number of books set in China. Middle years.

Ancient China Lesson Plans

Dear Reader,

I have posted before about out studies in ancient history (see here, here, and here). Overall, I have not been happy with the curricula we have found. I wanted something that would treat each culture separately. There is lots out there on Greece, Egypt, and Rome. But finding materials on Mesopotamia and China has been harder. We are just finishing up our unit on ancient China now so I thought I would share what we did in case others are also struggling to find materials.

My ideal would have been to find a good spine book that tells the story of Chinese history in a narrative form. I would have used it to provide a framework and then supplemented with other materials that go more in-depth on individual topics. But I couldn’t find a spine book like that. They may be out there but I didn’t turn one up at a child’s level. Instead, what I found and used to structure our study was a study guide put out by Zeezok Publishing. It is called Ancient China to the Great Wall . . . and Beyond and is written by Judy Wilcox (Elyria, OH: Zeezok, 2003).  What I liked about this guide is that it gave me a framework on which to hang any topics we might study. It goes through Chinese history dynasty by dynasty and along the way also deals with other topics like art and poetry. It suggests other resources and readings as well as providing summaries for each dynasty. It also suggests activities such as doing one’s own calligraphy, but we did not use these. I did find that it gave different dates for the dynasties than other sources I looked at so I would use those with caution.

So I came up with a schedule of what topics to cover when based on Wilcox’s book and inserted other works in the right places to fit the topic of the day or week. I also compiled a selection of read-aloud books which did not deal with a specific topic but which we would read after the day’s other work.  These were usually the most enjoyable books, and I hope they gave us a flavor for life in China through the stories they told. I will give you the whole outline of what we did below, but here are some of the other books on which I relied heavily:

The World’s Story,Volume I: China, Japan, and the Islands of the Pacific by Eva March Tappan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914). I love Tappan’s books. We used her stories of Greece and Rome for our spines when we studied them. The World’s Story series is 14 volumes (I think) that cover different regions of the world, telling their stories and culture through their own myths, legends, songs, and historical accounts. Unfortunately, I did not find this thorough enough to be our spine, but I heartily recommend her works.  The World’s Story can be found free digitally online.

The following two books are of the compendium variety so common today with brief blurbs on different topics. They are not my ideal but I was hard pressed to find good accounts of ancient Chinese history. You need not use these two specifically but they are the ones I had access to. I used them just to provide a little background detail before moving on to more interesting things.

See Through History: Ancient China by Brian Williams (New York: Viking, 1996).

Ancient China edited by Carol Michaelson (San Francisco: Time Life Books, 1997).

Longer read-alouds:

Strange Stories from Ancient China by Teresa Ng (Amazon Digital Services, 2011) . Kindle e-book

Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959).

More about Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore (New York, W. Morrow, 1971). These Little Pear stories are wonderful. My kids gobbled them up.

The Little Girl Lost by Eleanor Raper. This is available as an e-book at Project Gutenberg here.

Little Yellow Wang-lo  by M.C. Bell. See Project Gutenberg.

Peeps into China by Eliza Caroline Phillips. See Project Gutenberg.

Topical books:

Bamboo Valley by Ann Whitehead Nagda (Norwalk, CT : Soundprints, 1997).

Elephants and Golden Thrones by Trish Marx (New York : Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2008). This book contains and introduction and then many shorter stories and anecdotes. We did not read them all.

The Empress and the Silkworm by Lily Toy Hong (Morton Grove, Ill. : Albert Whitman & Co., 1995).

Kubla Khan: the Emperor of Everything by Kathleeen Krull (New York : Viking Children’s Books, 2010).

The Monkey King by Aaron Shepard (Amazon Digital Services, 2009). Kindle e-book. Our only complaint was it ended too soon. We’d love to read more about the Monkey King.

Long is a Dragon by Peggy Goldstein (Berkeley, CA: Pacific View Press, 1991).

Science in Ancient China by George Beshore (New York : F. Watts, 1998).

Silk Route by John S. Major (New York: HarperCollins, 1995).

The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack ([New York] : Puffin Books, 1977).

The Travels of Marco Polo by (). I picked this book because I owned it. There are many others out there on Marco Polo to choose from.

You wouldn’t want to be in the Forbidden City! by Jacqueline Morley (New York : Franklin Watts, 2008).

And many, many books by Demi. Apparently, he is good enough to have only one name. Whoever he is, he has many books relating to China. They are all picture books though some are longer than others. And every one we could get our hands on we found worthwhile.

So that is the bibliography. Now here are the lesson plans. I would introduce each dynasty by reading the summaries from Ancient China to the Great Wall . . . and Beyond [henceforth GWB] and then read the blurbs from See Through History [STH] and the Time Life Nature Discovery Series Ancient China [NCD]. We would enter each dynasty into our book of centuries and then move on to the more interesting topical reading associated with each, having the children narrate as we went along. We would when appropriate also draw in our book of centuries. And we would end most days by reading from one of the longer read-alouds listed above. I just did as much each day as we could handle. I think the whole study has taken us about 10-12 weeks.

Plan of Study:

1. Introduction and geography

subtopics: climate and regions of China; food; Chinese symbols; river life

reading:  Bamboo Valley;Demi’s  Kites, Happy New Year, and The Boy who Painted Dragons;  The Story about Ping and Demi’s Magic Boat

Activity: Label a map with landmarks and regions (Tibet, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, China Proper) of China (see GWB for help on these).

I used the website China Family Adventure to show us the food.

2. Hian dynasty

This early dynasty is legendary and is not included in all lists as the first dynasty. We found little outside reading on it but looked briefly at our background info books: GWB pp. 12-13, STH, and NCD pp. 6-7.

3. Shang dynasty

subtopics: oracle bones, writing and pictograms, silk and clothing, foot binding, Shang king’s burial

background reading: GWB pp. 14-15, NCD pp. 8-9

World’s Story (henceforth WS) pp.207-222; Long is a Dragon

silk and clothing: WS pp.73-74; NCD pp.36-41, 52-53; The Empress and the Silkworm

I did not ask my children to try calligraphy but after reading about it my eight-year-old began trying to copy the symbols.

4. Zhou (or Chou) dynasty

subtopics: classes of society and feudalism, Taoism and Confucianism, Yin and Yang, Mongol attacks and warring states period

classes and feudalism: read GWB pp. 19-20; STH pp. 10-15, 24-29; NCD pp. 30-35; Lu Pan by Demi.

Taoism and Confucianism: read GWB pp. 20-21; STH pp. 18-21; NCD pp. 22-23, 28-29; WS pp. 2-37; Demi’s Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching.

Mongol invasion and the warring states period: read GWB p.23

5. Tsin (or Qin or Chin) dynasty

subtopics: coins and roads, science and astronomy, the Great Wall, Terra Cotta army, jade, dragons

background reading: GWB pp. 24-26; NCD pp. 11-17; STH pp. 16-17, 32-35; WS pp. 40-48

science, astronomy, and inventions: read NCD pp. 46-47;  Science in Ancient China (This is a long book and we took a few days to read it. After looking at all the Chinese invented, this is a great time to draw crossbows and the like in your books of centuries.)

6. Han dynasty

subtopics: music, inventions (including wheelbarrow, terrace farming, crossbows and paper), Buddhism, power struggles

background reading: GWB; NCD pp. 54-55; STH pp.36-37; WS pp.49-52; Demi’s Chen Ping and His Magic Axe

Buddhism: WS pp. 53-55; Demi’s Dalai Lama, Buddha and Buddha stories (We found we had had enough after the first two and didn’t actually read Buddha Stories).

power struggles: WS pp. 56-62

7. Sui dynasty

subtopics: pagodas, grand canal

reading: GWB; NCD p.19

8. Tang dynasty

subtopics: poetry, mandarins, porcelain and lacquerware, gunpowder

reading: GWB; NCD pp. 20-21, 24-27; WS pp.64-72; Demi’s Artist and Architect

We also went to an art museum at this point and saw lots from the Tang and Song dynasties.

9. Song dynasty

subtopics: calligraphy, poetry, art, zodiac, medicine and acupuncture

reading: GWB; STH pp.22-23; NCD pp. 42-43, 48-51; WS p.75; Demi’s Su Dong Po and Liang and the Magic Paintbrush and Dragon’s Tale

10. Mongol Invasion and Genghis Khan

reading: WS pp. 78-84, 92-97; Demi’s Genghis Khan

11. Yuan dynasty

subtopics: Kubla Khan, silk route, Marco Polo

reading: GWB; NCD pp.44-45; WS pp. 100-130; Silk Route; Kubla Khan: Emperor of Everything; Travels of Marco Polo

The World’s Story is really wonderful on this section. It contains passages from Marco Polo’s own book.

12. Ming dynasty

subtopics: Beijing and the Forbidden City, MIng vases, the monkey king

reading: GWB; STH pp.40-43; You wouldn’t want to be in the Forbidden City!; Elephants and Golden Thrones; The Monkey King

13. Qing (or Tsing or Manchu) dynasty

subtopics: opium war, Taiping and Boxer rebellions, missionaries, the last emperor

reading: GWB; WS pp. 146-173, 176-203

14. Republic and revolution

reading: GWB; WS pp. 243-256

And that’s it. That’s how we studied ancient China. Feel free to use our plan or to tweak it for your own purposes.