Ancient China Activities

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Our ancient history studies took us to China last week.  We had so much fun, that we extended it into this week as well. There is really so much you can do with ancient China and Firefly was very interested in learning more, so we lingered for a while. Here are the projects that we did to go along with our studies.

Pictograms:  Firefly listens to the audio version of Story of the World (read by Jim Weiss), which I realized was not so helpful for part of the chapter on ancient China, because it contains a page that looks like this:

These are pictograms, an ancient Chinese way of writing, where pictures stood for words.  We spent some time looking over the ones in the book, then spontaneously, I asked Firefly if he’d like to make his own pictograms.  I gave him black paint, a brush and some white paper and asked him to write a brief story of something that had happened to him recently, by making up his own pictograms.

This actually is one of the activities in the SOTW Activity Guide, I later realized.

He drew a story about how our family got a new dog.  Later, The Queen Bee painted some pictogram stories, too.

Terra Cotta Warriors  Our family has long had a fascination with these amazing ancient artifacts.  When a traveling exhibit came to Washington, D.C. two years ago,  I pulled Firefly out of public school kindergarden for the day, took my then 3 year old by the hand, put the baby in the Ergo carrier and went through the exhibit marveling at it all.  I didn’t know if they would be the least bit interested but I was interested, and having no childcare options, they were along for the ride.  To my delight, they became fascinated, too, and now recognize Terra Cotta Warrior images whenever they see them.

So, we were happy to learn even more about this fascinating group of life size soldiers, numbering eight thousand, that were accidentally discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974.

We read the book Hidden Army:  Clay Soldiers of Ancient China, by Jane O’Connor.

Then we watched a video on Netflix Streaming called Secrets of the Dead:  China’s Terracotta Warriors, which goes very in depth in explaining how the warriors were probably made and preserved for over 2,000 years.  You may want to screen this documentary before showing it to young children, as it does contain some information and recreated images of some other events that occurred during that part of history, including a battle in a war and a mass suicide/homicide of an emperor’s entire court.

We had some clay left over from our Mohenjo-Daro dwelling project and Firefly was inspired to use it to make his own Terracotta Warrior, Terracotta Horse and his own version of a ming bowl.

This box of clay was a great investment. For under $10, we've gotten two big projects out of it and we still have some left.

It was a rainy day, so I baked the clay creations in the oven on 200 degrees for about an hour. This dried them somewhat , but due to their thickness, they needed further drying. We left them out for a couple of days and they were definitely drier, although still a bit fragile.

Terracotta pieces after drying.

Then Firefly painted the pieces, just as would have been done in ancient China.

History Pockets  The book  History Pockets:  Ancient Civilizations has numerous activities on ancient China, including a paper dragon, Chinese lanterns with the numbers one to ten written in Mandarin and English, Chinese paper dolls, a postcard from The Great Wall, and  more.

Here’s our dragon:

We spent some time learning about dragons and how, in China, they mean good luck, rather than the scary, fire-breathing beasts that they are known for in some other cultures. Perhaps we will attend a festival for the next Chinese New Year to see some real dragon costumes.  I have a feeling that ancient China is going to be one of our ongoing fascinations, much like ancient Egypt.