DEAR MIDDLE SCHOOL EDUCATOR,
Welcome to this new edition of Learning Enrichment's (LE's) study unit
on China! We've updated the content of the original unit, added a brand-new
page of guided-reading materials (all of them, from Chinese sources!)
and expanded your Teaching Guide with more resources and tips for putting
the unit to work.
Week by week, China's rapidly
growing economy and booming exports are capturing the world's attention
sometimes, to the point where China's great cultural wealth is
overlooked. But the resilience of this millennia-old culture has important
lessons to offer the rest of us. Why has China's culture endured for
so long? What kinds of traditions and values does it embody? And how is
it faring in our high-tech world? With the materials in this unit,
LE invites your students to begin searching for answers to those questions.
A "Culture Contact"
Unit. As you and your colleagues know, "Culture" is
the first of 10 thematic curriculum strands recommended by the National
Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) in its publication Expectations
of Excellence. The study of a society's culture is also a major theme
in state curriculums throughout the USA. With that in mind, LE has crafted
every student page in "Discovering China!" to help young readers
expand their grasp of this important concept. As they read, students will
find both direct and indirect clues to unique aspects
of the Chinese culture.
On the surface, Student Text Pages 1, 2, and 3 unfold the (fictional)
story of two young Americans Amy and John Lee who visit
relatives in China during the summer of 2005. In reality, the three pages
are structured around three basic steps for discovering what makes
a culture unique. The Q-and-A's at the top of each page introduce
and explain these steps. Thus: On the "Homeland"
page, the Lees begin their journey in modern-day Beijing, where they study
a topographical map for clues to the early emergence of China's great
civilization. On the "People" page, they observe
(and make journal entries about) various customs, interests, legends,
and pursuits of people in China today. And on the "Heritage"
page, they report on and discuss their impressions of
China's enduring cultural characteristics in our changing world.
(They also field great questions from classmates!) The remaining two pages
("Treasure Hunt" and "Reading
More") are intended to help students recall what they've
already learned about China's culture and begin a lifetime process
of learning more about it!
The five student pages in this unit have been developed around curriculum
standards selected from three sources: the NCSS publication Expectations
of Excellence (EOE); the National Standards for History
(NSH); and the National Geography Standards, Geography for Life
(GFL). Each student page is a "stand-alone" product. Each
can be machine-copied and distributed in any order you wish. However,
LE recommends that the pages be used in the order in which they appear.
That's the best way, we believe, to help middle schoolers strengthen their
the geographic reasons for the location of the world's first cities...."
("Human Systems," GFL);
and describe selected ... patterns of change within ... cultures,
such as the rise of civilizations...." ("Time, Continuity,
and Change," EOE);
the role of various [geographic] factors in the development of nation-states...."
("Human Systems," GFL);
and give examples of how language, ... architecture, other artifacts,
traditions, beliefs, values, and behaviors contribute to the development
and transmission of culture." ("Culture," EOE);
connections between globalizing trends in economy ... and culture
in the ... [21st century] and dynamic assertions of traditional
cultural identity and distinctiveness." ("Major Global Trends
Since World War II," NSH).
Culture is the key social studies concept in this unit, and readers
will find a series of clues to its meaning and applications. Many other
terms are defined in context, though you may want to preview the following
lists with your class. Note that place names are spelled in the form in
which students will find them on most English-language maps and sources.
Terms To Preview.
The following lists are arranged by student page, and each listing ends
with pronunciation aids. (Note: Almost all special
terms on the "Treasure Hunt" page are drawn from one of the
first three student pages, so they are not shown separately here.)
Page: archaeologist, civilization, Confucian,
construction crane, domesticate, drought, environment, family
compound, Internet café, irrigate, plateau, vulnerable.
Pronunciation aids for students: Bao (Bough, Bow),
Beijing (Bay-jing), hutong (who-tong),
Qinghai (Ching-high), Shanghai (Shang-high),
Yangtze (Yong-see), yuan (yoo-wahn),
Xi'an (She-on), Xiexie (she-she).
Page: astronaut, Buddha, Buddhism, ethnic minority, fossil
fuels, hydropower, Mandarin, mosque, solar power, spectacular,
Terra Cotta, tidal power, warrior. Pronunciation aids: Bai
(Buy), Chongqing (Choong-ching),
Jiangsu (Gee-ong-soo), Mogao (Mo-gow),
Nanjing (Non-jing), Ni hao (Knee
how), Qin Shi Huang (Chin She Hwong),Shaanxi
(Shon-she), tai chi (tigh chee),
taikong (tigh-koong), Yichang (Yee-chong),
Yunnan (You-non), Zaijian (Dsigh-jen,
"ds" as in "rods"), Zhongguo (Jong-gwo).
Page: Communist, construction crew, environmental protection,
high-tech, philosopher, welfare. Pronunciation aids: Taklimakan
(Taw-kluh-muh-kon), Xinjiang (Shin-gee-ong).
Page: characteristics, colonials, rectify. Pronunciation
aids: Qomolangma (Cho-mo-long-mah), Tsze-ch'an
The contents of this unit may prompt several topics for additional student
research. For example, you might want students to explore the following
questions. Alternatively, you may provide these data as introductory background:
How big is China?
In area, China is about the same size as the USA. But its 1.3-billion
population is over four times larger than the USA's. China's people
form about 20 percent of the global population!
What ethnic groups
does China's population include? About 92 percent of all
Chinese people are members of the Han ethnic group. The remaining
8 percent include 55 different ethnic groups. Most Chinese live in
eastern towns and cities, where they are helping to produce the world's
fastest growing economy.
What are China's
natural resources? The list is impressive: China has the
world's largest source of potential hydropower. It also contains major
deposits of coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, and other minerals.
And, despite the fact that less than 20 percent of its land is arable,
China's rich soil enables it to rank among the world's largest producers
of rice, potatoes, tea, and a number of other crops.
What type of economy
do the Chinese people have? Since 1949, the Communist Party
of China (CPC) has set all major policies for the People's Republic
of China (PRC). Within this system, the country's economic goals used
to be planned and implemented by the government. Today, under China's
new socialist market economy, the government continues
to retain ownership of major industries (steel, for example), but
there's a growing private sector, too with thousands of small
businesses. China, which has attracted billions of dollars in foreign
investment, has the world's fastest-growing major economy and ranks
third in world trade (2005).
The Q-and-A at the top of each of the first three student pages is a pointer
to that page's instructional focus. Be sure students understand that they'll
find both direct and indirect clues to the kinds of
"culture information" targeted by the Q-and-A. As students discuss
what they're learning under each question, begin recording their observations
on the chalkboard with plans to review observations from all three
pages at the unit's end. Note: For maximum benefit,
LE strongly recommends that students have their own copy of this unit's
Map Page as they read the first three student
pages. (In fact, the dialog on the "Homeland" page includes
direct references to Uncle Ru's map of China!)
Amy and John are in their uncle's home in Beijing, where they discuss
what they've seen in the city, then study a map to learn where and why
China's civilization developed so early. (Uncle Ru also poses a riddle
for them to solve! See also the "Heritage" page section, below.)
The page explains directly how China's geographic features influenced
that development. References to the Palace Museum, hutongs, the
Great Wall, and Confucius are indirect clues to the fact that
the country's traditional culture still survives in a modern-day setting.
Important subtopics on this page include:
Tell students that Uncle Ru may have been a bit conservative when
he claimed that artifacts discovered in this region prove that China's
civilization is 6,000 years old. Recent findings at the Dadiwan Ruins
in southeastern Gansu could push the date back to 8,000 years ago.
China. Distribute copies of this unit's Map
Page. Then, as students read the "Homeland" page, encourage
them to follow Bao's guidelines for adding the "China Proper"
half-circle to their copy of the map. For a slew of other excellent
maps see the "Chinese
Geography...." page at the Columbia University "Asia
For Educators" website.
Rivers. You may want students to do additional research on
China's current use of and future plans for the Yellow
and Yangtze Rivers. In The Future of Life (excerpted in the
February 2002 issue of Scientific American), Edward 0. Wilson
notes that the Yellow River Channel now runs "bone-dry"
near its mouth, during part of each year. Share this fact with students,
then ask: What can China do, to compensate for the increasing
drain (by farms and factories) on the Yellow River's water? Hint:
China's Xinhua News Agency has reported on plans for a massive "South-North
Water Diversion Project" to bring water from the Yangtze
to the north.
The 2008 Olympics Games are still in the future. But, as the host
city, Beijing has big plans for a green Olympics. Plans include an
"Olympic Green" that sports fans among your students can
learn about, by using an interactive map of key locations. Select
"Venues" at the official website for the Beijing
On this page, direct clues related to the opening Q-and-A
are more subtle than on the previous page. But, with your prompts and
some discussion, students should recognize that the Chinese people have
a shared pride in their history (the Buddhist statues, the first Qin emperor,
Nanjing's survival and success). As for shared goals, the allusions to
Shanghai's prosperity, the Three Gorges Dam, the taikonaut and
even the herbal research being done by Bao's college friends could
be taken as indirect clues to China's hopes for the future. Important
On Day 5, the Lees fly to Gansu Province, a reference to one of China's
administrative units. You may want to have students research Gansu
and other provinces. You'll find an interactive provincial map of
China (including short profiles of each province) at the "China
View" page sponsored by China's Xinhua News Agency.
Perhaps, after previewing the site, you may want to assign individual
students to research and report on specific provinces. (Reminder:
The PRC has claimed Taiwan as a province since 1949.)
On the topic of religion, the Data
Page in LE's online China unit for high school students (see "More
Sources," below) reports that Confucian teachings influence Chinese
cultural values; Taoism and Buddhism are widespread; Christianity
is practiced by three to four percent of the people; and Islam is
observed by one to two percent. You may want students to compare this
profile with that of any other nation whose culture they are studying.
What a large number of ethnic minorities in China (55)! There's
a wealth of material to be found on this topic in most standard encyclopedias.
See, for example, "People of China" in Microsoft® Encarta®
Encyclopedia. Ask students: In the USA, does the popular image
of Chinese culture include an awareness of China's ethnic and religious
Three Gorges Dam.
China's new Three Gorges Dam is already in operation. And
the full Three Gorges Project, which will reach a wide range of electricity
consumers in southeast China, is scheduled to be completed by 2009.
Have a team of "reporters" in your class keep track of ongoing
news about both the Dam and the Project. (If students access the Internet
in class, you might suggest that they launch this project by entering
the Dam's name in the Search box at the Google
News website.) Perhaps a committee could keep a class scrapbook
on the whole topic.
With its successful space flight in October 2005, China has confirmed
its role as the world's third "space-age" nation! For a
detailed look at its accomplishments and plans, see the cluster of
links on "The
Second Mission" page at the website for the China Internet
Information Center (CIIC). Ask students to think about the effect
that China's space program might have on its people's culture: Would
success in their space ventures tend to strengthen or weaken
the influence of China's traditional culture in the lives of
its people? In general, do modern scientific discoveries benefit
or threaten a people's cultural identity?
Here, Uncle Ru "solves" the riddle he gave Amy and John on the
day he first met them! (See the "Homeland" page section,
above.) And, in solving it, he provides a direct clue to
the essence of China's culture. Indirect clues arise from the
Lees' follow-up report to their classmates and from their answers
to classmates' questions. China is revealed to have a growing, changing
economy, and it shares problems that other nations face (environmental
concerns, the poverty of some of its people). Yet, both Amy and Lee (in
different ways) indicate that the Chinese are still conscious of their
rich heritage and want to preserve it. Important subtopics include:
At one point, Mrs. Bonn sums up the dramatic history of China's
first four decades after the Empire was overthrown in 1912. Several
important figures in Chinese history lived during those times
Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong, in particular. Encourage students to research
these men's influence on 20th-century China.
Is modern-day China promoting democracy? Uncle Ru indicates that it
is. For China's official view on the subject, see this interesting
article on the PRC's own website: "CPC
to Promote In-Party Democracy at Grassroots Organizations."
Be sure that students grasp Uncle Ru's use of the riddle when he is
questioned about China's form of government. He isn't dodging the
question posed by John's Dad. Rather, he suggests that (for him) there
may be another, more basic, issue the preservation of culture,
even as its people adapt to change. As students react to, and discuss,
Ru's observation, help them to think about it within the context of
the unit's search to define China's culture. Review their answers
to the Q-and-A's on the previous pages. Then suggest that they write
a short essay under the title: "Two Outstanding Characteristics
of the Chinese Culture."
A question by Isa ("Which is the 'real' China?") deals with
cultural identity: How does one characterize a society's culture,
if it presents apparently contradictory patterns (very wealthy and
very poor; very traditional and very liberal; etc.)? What do students
Page 4/ "Treasure
Even though the "Treasure Hunt" page is an evaluation
instrument, LE strongly recommends that you use it as the basis for an
"open-book" quiz or small-group activity. The page demands careful
reading and close attention to details. And assigning it as a small-group
activity would facilitate the discussion that some of its questions are
likely to prompt.
The short-answer questions on this page have been distributed as follows:
Items 1-5 deal with the "Heritage" page; Items 6-10, with
the "Homeland" page; and Items 11-15, with the "People"
page. PART A: 1-T; 2-F; 3-O; 4-F; 5-T. PART
B: 6-b; 7-b; 8-a; 9-c; 10-c; 11-c; 12-b; 13-a; 14-a; 15-a.
PART C: Answers will vary.
Page 5/ "Reading
The reading selections on this page are offered as an enrichment
activity for use with this unit and any other lesson you may present on
China. Each item touches on a "cultural thread" within the Chinese
experience, and the questions that accompany it are intended to help students
identify and reflect on that thread. (See suggested "Answers,"
below.) In addition, you may want to pursue these tips:
A / Which Name
Came First? A fascinating subject, and one that can serve
as a small "key" to a big issue namely, the intrusive
role played by Western nations in Asian countries (including China)
between the 15th and 20th centuries. After discussing the issue of
which name (Mt. Qomolangma, or Mt. Everest) the great mountain should
now bear, students might want to research other examples of foreign
intrusion for example: the "Opium War" and the "unfair
treaties" in China's 19th-century history.
B / Ba Jin's Advice.
This fragment from the thoughts of China's greatest 20th-century author
seems unambiguous. But you might want to help students explore what
it means for a person to "master" the future.
C / Confucius Says...
With this item, the focus is on four human traits held up for admiration.
But you may also want to explore student reactions to the term "superior
man." What did this term probably mean in the age of Confucius
2,500 years ago? How is the term used now? Invite students
to think of modern-day equivalents for example: an honorable
D / Five Mascots!
If your students have access to the Internet in class, they can actually
see the five "Beijing
2008 mascots" (collectively called the "Friendlies")
at the CIIC website. Images of native animals bears, tigers,
etc. are frequently chosen as Olympics "mascots."
Students can research choices made by other host nations under the
symbols" at the Wikipedia website. (Scroll to "List
E / Very Old Legend.
In today's speed-conscious, high-tech environment, students may feel
that the old man in this legend was, indeed, foolish. But remind them
about the centuries it took the Chinese people to build the Great
Wall. Then challenge them to think of modern-day projects that people
undertake, even though there is no foreseeable date of conclusion.
(Seeking a cure for cancer might be one example.) How important are
"big" goals, in life? Help students to see that a legend
is a story through which important principles may be taught.
A-Name: 1-In the 19th century (or,
the 1800s). Using the writer's calculations (in 2002), the British
named Mt. Everest around 1852. 2-Qomolangma. 3-The
writer's argument focuses on the issue of which name is older. However,
there's also an implied argument that the name conferred by indigenous
people should be given priority. B-Ba Jin: A literal
answer would be: ...So that they can "be masters of the future."
But a more reflective answer might be: ...To learn from one's experience;
OR ...To learn not to repeat mistakes. C-Confucius: 1-You
may want students to repeat the full text of Sentences 2-5. A shorter
answer would be: humility, respect (for elders or those in authority),
kindness, and justice. 2-Answers will vary, but each
should probably include some indication of the basis for the student's
opinion. D-Mascots: 1-The 2008 Summer
Olympics, to be held in Beijing. 2-The swallow. 3-Answers
will vary, though the choices seem to suggest the Chinese people's
widespread affection for children and their fondness for certain animals.
E-Legend: 1-Families can beget new members through
succeeding generations (and perhaps continue the "family business"
too!), but mountains cannot reproduce. 2-Answers
will vary, and there's a wide range of possibilities the importance
of respecting the wishes of one's parents, being willing to undertake
big tasks, remaining committed to shared goals; etc.
Good sources on China's culture abound! Here are just a few: The annual
entry in the CIA's World Factbook contains excellent data profiles
that are regularly updated.... The website maintained by the Embassy
of the People's Republic of China in the United States offers a wealth
of links, some leading to news and policy statements on domestic and world
issues.... The Lonely Planet publication China includes fact-packed
chapters (with high-interest details) on the history and cultural highlights
of each of China's provinces.... Peter S. Goodman's article on a modern-day
"Cultural Revelation" (The Washington Post, September
16, 2003, PC01) illuminates the challenges and choices facing some Chinese
farmers as their nation's economy modernizes. (Yes. That term in the article's
title is "Revelation"!).... And finally, for additional
background and tips on this unit's topic, you might check "China:
Continuing the Journey," LE's own online unit for high school
China Student Text Page No. 1 | China Student Text Page No. 2 | China Student Text Page No. 3 | China Evaluation Page | China Enrichment Page | China Map Page | China Data Page | China Gallery Page
Would you like to see other
pages in this study unit? Or visit LE's
LE wishes to thank the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States for underwriting the costs of producing and distributing the original printed version of this unit. We hope that, in this new electronic version, our unit continues to serve teachers and students in Grades 6-8.
Learning Enrichment, Inc. Content last updated: May 2006. Page
last reviewed: May 2006.