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Ancient China Lesson Plan: Zhou Dynasty

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Hands on Lesson Plan on Ancient China & the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty

Hands on Lesson Plan on Ancient China & the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty

This is part 3 of a 12 part a hands-on unit study on China. Carve "jade" sculptures from soap, create a "bamboo" scroll using craft sticks, compare Chinese religions, & more while learning about Ancient Chinese History and the Zhou Dynasty (also spelled Chou). Also included are our favorite Children's books and YouTube video clips. Use these ideas with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!

States of the Western Zhou dynasty

States of the Western Zhou dynasty

Zhou Dynasty Map

1. During the Zhou Dynasty, the land was divided into 21 individual states with 5 strong ones: Chin, Tsi, Sung, Tsin, and Chu.

  • Locate Chin, Tsi, Sung, Tsin, and Chu on a map.
  • Tsin because the strongest state since it had so military experience since they were constantly fighting the Tartars. Who were the Tartars? Locate where they lived on a map.

YOU WILL NEED: a map with the above locations

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi

Lao-Tzu

2. By the Zhou Dynasty, many people stopped thinking about a god and relied more on their own actions to earn a place in heaven. Lao-Tzu was one of the first major Chinese philosophers. He founded Taoism/Daoism, focusing on living each day spontaneously.

  • Read SOME of The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi, which is filled with more legends than facts. I only read parts of this and changed some words.
  • Discuss how his beliefs compare with what the Bible teaches, in particular whether there is eternal life and how someone can achieve it.

YOU WILL NEED: The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi or other book on Lao Tzu

Bamboo Scrolls

Bamboo slips from the Changsha Jiandu Museum

Bamboo slips from the Changsha Jiandu Museum

Each child attempted to write their name in Chinese characters on their "bamboo" slip made from a craft/popsicle stick.

Each child attempted to write their name in Chinese characters on their "bamboo" slip made from a craft/popsicle stick.

Bamboo Scrolls

3. These bamboo scrolls were used in China before they invented paper. The bamboo strips were tied together into a mat, which made them easy to roll up. Chinese characters were written from top to bottom.

  • The most famous Zhoug Dynasty emperor was Wu Wang, who became ill. His brother, Tan, wrote a prayer for healing on a bamboo scroll and locked it in an ancestral box. The bamboo scroll was later used as evidence to get Tan out of jail.
  • Create a "bamboo" scroll by having each child use a thin-tipped sharpie or black pen to write their name in Chinese characters on a craft/popsicle stick. (If you're doing this for a smaller group, they can create multiples sticks with other Chinese characters.
  • Use scotch tape to tape the "bamboo slips tips together, leaving some space between the sticks so you can roll it up into a scroll.
  • If you want to make it more authentic, you can use string instead of tape, following the directions simplelivingcreativelearning.com.

YOU WILL NEED: craft/popsicle sticks, fine-tipped black Sharpies or black pens, and tape or string

The finished bamboo scroll - We used tape to attach them, but you can use string if you want it to look more authentic.

The finished bamboo scroll - We used tape to attach them, but you can use string if you want it to look more authentic.

Confucius: Great Teacher of China by  Demi

Confucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi

Confucius

4. Confucius was another Chinese philosopher, who focused on helping people live together in harmony and peace. Lao Tzu and Confucius lived at the same time, but Lao Tzu was much older.

  • Read about life of Confucius using Confucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi.
  • How do the beliefs of Confucius compare to the beliefs in the Bible? Are in similar?
  • If you'd like to spend more time discussing Confucius's philosophies, KONOS History of the World II has good topics for discussion on pp. 529-531.

YOU WILL NEED: Confucius: Great Teacher of China by Demi or other book on Confucius

A "jade" rhinoceros sculpture made from Irish Spring soap by a high school aged child. -- I accidently got the blue kind, but I'd meant to get the green kind.

A "jade" rhinoceros sculpture made from Irish Spring soap by a high school aged child. -- I accidently got the blue kind, but I'd meant to get the green kind.

Jade

5. The ancient Chinese considered jade the most precious and most beautiful natural stone and used it for a variety of purposed (weapons, jewelry, ornaments, etc.) during the Shang Dynasty. During the Zhou Dynasty, Confucius changed the focus from the practical uses of jade to the "virtues" of jade, using it as a symbol of purity and goodness.

  • Watch the below video on jade.
  • Give each child 1/3 of a bar of Irish Spring soap (the green kind -- don't make my mistake & grab the kind that is blue). Allow them to use whatever materials they'd like to carve something. My younger children used plastic knives, vegetable peelers, and toothpicks. My older child used an electric drill. Make sure they work over a covered surface (wax paper or newspaper) for easier clean-up.
  • If you have only younger children, they can instead mold something from green play-doh as it can be challenging (and frustrating) to carve soap.

YOU WILL NEED: 1/3 of a bar of green Irish Spring soap per child (or a whole bar if you'd like) & carving tools (plastic knives, vegetable peelers, toothpicks, paring knives*, electric drills*, etc.) *Use with caution & extra supervision

This does show Michelangelo's David (nude) at the beginning, so skip that part if it's an issue for you.

Jade Carvings from Soap

A kindergarten-aged child carving a "jade" hare from Irish Spring soap

A kindergarten-aged child carving a "jade" hare from Irish Spring soap

Option for Younger Children: Play-dough

Younger children (preschool & kindergarten age) might prefer to instead form a "jade" sculpture using green play-dough. This is a "jade" dragon created by a preschooler.

Younger children (preschool & kindergarten age) might prefer to instead form a "jade" sculpture using green play-dough. This is a "jade" dragon created by a preschooler.

Zhou Dynasty Children's Books

Zhou Dynasty Children's Books

Zhou Dynasty Books


zhou-dynasty-lesson

Another Video We Enjoyed Watching

zhou-dynasty-lesson

Over the years I have posted over 40 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 170 lessons. The unit studies include the Human Body, Simple Machines, Earth Science, Medieval Period, American Revolution, Pioneer Life, Countries of the World, and many more! For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies .

KONOS History of the World Volume II

KONOS History of the World Volume II

KONOS History of the World Volume II

Would you like more? These lessons are inspired by History of the World: Volume II by KONOS Curriculum, which includes many more discussion topics, interesting facts, activities, writing topics, and book suggestions.

© 2021 Shannon

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