CyberHunt: Ancient China
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Bring some of the history and accomplishments of this extraordinary culture into your classroom with these Internet-based activities, suitable for middle- and upper-graders.
- CyberHunt Reproducible page.
- Cyberhunt Reproducible Answer Guide (*This is located at the bottom of the article.)
Chip off the Old Block
The Ancient Chinese were the first humans to use paper, created by soaking the inner bark of a mulberry tree in chemicals, pressing it, and drying it. The Chinese also invented the first early form of printing; they carved words onto sheets of wood and pressed the words with ink. Share these inventions with your students with an exciting block-printing activity using homemade paper and potato stamps. Use this easy-to-learn paper-making recipe, then divide the class into pairs or small groups. After your paper has dried, distribute one or more halved potatoes to each group, and invite students to choose simple shapes or designs for their stamps. Students can then use forks, spoons, plastic knives, or other tools to carefully carve around each shape so that it sticks up from the rest of the potato. Next, show students how to dip the carved parts of their potatoes into bright tempera or acrylic paints, and press — or "block" — onto paper in a pattern. Discuss with students their findings about the paper-making and printing processes. Why do they think the first printing press, invented in Europe around 1450, used separate, moveable letters to form words? Why do they think metal was later used for the stamps instead of wood?
The Ancient Chinese used a special ink called "lamp black" made out of the soot from the bottom of kettles mixed with tree sap. One important use for this ink was writing down the wisdom of philosophers, including that of Confucius, one of Ancient China's most famous teachers. Introduce some of these teachings to your students, then invite them to write out and illustrate a few favorites on manila paper. To make your own lamp black ink for students, carefully cover a plate with soot by holding it upside down over a lighted candle. Add a bit of vegetable oil and stir together until it has the consistency of ink. Students can also try inventing their own original "wise" sayings and inserting them into fortune cookies to share with classmates. Inspire your students with these fun, sample fortune-cookie sayings.
A Day in the Life
In the 1980s, wonderfully preserved mummies, known as the Takla Makan mummies, were found in western China. Although they date back more than 3,000 years, the mummies were representative of an ancient society that had knowledge of weaving and the art of tattooing, and used horses. Show some photographs to your students. Challenge students to imagine they are the archaeologists who unearthed the Takla Makan mummies, and to each write a diary entry about their findings. What do they think is remarkable about the mummies?
After completing the CyberHunt, invite students to write a postcard to a friend or family member, imagining that they have been traveling through Ancient China. Begin by distributing a blank postcard to each student. Ask students to draw and color a picture on one side of the card, or they can cut and paste imagery from some of the related Web sites found on these pages. What have they seen on their adventures? On the opposite side of their cards, students should include several sentences naming facts they've learned about Ancient China from their "travels," historic figures they've "met," or special souvenirs that they plan to bring home.
More Site About Ancient China
Cyberhunt Reproducible Answer Guide
1. Any of these: fans, kites, toys, clothes, paper.
2. To see if a newly built house was faced in perfect harmony with nature. Counting.
3. Volcano. Good.
4. Songbirds or red-colored birds or swallows. It is thought that using scissors might "cut off" your good fortune, while washing hair washes away good luck.
5. Gong. Nine. Dragon.
6. They used bricks, mass-produced in kilns (instead of cut stone).
All of the sites chosen for the CyberHunt and activities have been reviewed by our staff. At press time, all links are safe. However, we strongly urge teachers to review all sites before sharing them with students.